Year in Review: Imperious Jonathan Rea on top of the world

Jonathan Rea celebrates his record-equalling fourth World Superbike title at Magny-Cours in France in September.
Jonathan Rea celebrates his record-equalling fourth World Superbike title at Magny-Cours in France in September.

Jonathan Rea swept all before him once again in 2018 as the Northern Ireland rider won the World Superbike title for a record-equalling fourth time.

It was an imperious performance by Rea, who not only matched ‘Blackburn Bullet’ Carl Fogarty’s haul of championships, but who topped that accomplishment by securing the title for an unprecedented fourth season in a row.

The Kawasaki rider was unstoppable during a sensational year that saw him equal American rider Doug Polen’s record of 17 victories in a single season.

Indeed, there was every chance Rea would have bettered that mark had the final race of the campaign at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar not been called off. Rea had won the opener to seal an astonishing 11th victory in a row – another record – and it seemed inevitable that he would have repeated the trick in race two, such was his dominance on the ZX-10RR.

But no matter, it was a minor disappointment for the Ballyclare man, who has well and truly earned his place in the World Superbike hall of fame.

The 31-year-old has now won 71 WSBK races in his career, overtaking Fogarty’s previous benchmark of 59 triumphs, and Rea is showing no signs of slowing down.

He faces new opposition on new machinery in 2019, most notably ex-Grand Prix rider Alvaro Bautista, who joins Chaz Davies on Ducati’s new V4 Panigale.

However, Rea is the man they will all have to beat as he chases a fantastic fifth world crown, which would put him out on his own as the undisputed king of World Superbikes.

Success has become the norm for the Ulster rider since he joined Kawasaki in 2015, but Rea never tires of that winning feeling.

“It is absolutely incredible to win four. Sometimes even after winning back-to-back championships, or three in a row, I have to say it is hard to find words to speak about what you have just done,” he said.

“It is like we are riding the wave now with our Ninja ZX-10RR. Whilst I always dreamed of being in this position I never thought it was realistic.”

Looking ahead to next season, the obvious target for Rea is to retain his championship, and the Kawasaki rider feels he has every chance.

“Right now, I feel I can have another few really strong seasons, especially because of the team I’m in,” he said.

“It’s not just the bike, it’s the people around me and the atmosphere inside the garage is really positive and fun.

“There’s no reason why, barring injuries or anything else, that we can’t at least compete for next year’s championship.”

Rea is relishing the chance to race a new version of the Kawasaki ZX-10RR in 2019, which he tested for the first time in Spain last month.

“Next year we have a new model of the ZX-10RR coming and inside the engine there are some upgrades.

“With the (rev limit) rule changes this year, we worked together as a team to improve the bike to make it the best version we could, and I feel really proud of that.”