Even Carl Fogarty could not win five Superbike World Championship titles, never mind five in a row, but that is what KRT rider Jonathan Rea did after another bizarre and often bruising weekend of tough races at Magny-Cours.
After his only realistic championship rival Alvaro Bautista crashed out of race two, Rea’s sudden championship-winning opportunity became a surprise to him and all, even if he had to score well to nail it down for sure.
Rea being Rea, his fight with Michael van Der Mark became a real race and in scoring his 12th win of 2019 Rea moved fully 129 points clear, with only 124 left to play for should anyone win all the rest.
“It has been the biggest challenge to date and we have just chipped away. The beginning of the season was really tough, to be beaten the way we were,” said the Irishman.
“But to mentally accept the challenge and keep working as a team - also away from the track – we kept strong. I have worked and kept working. We all go to each weekend looking for the opportunity and we have had lots of opportunities this year, and won a lot of races.
It is beyond my wildest dreams to win the title here because after four rounds I would have bitten your hand off if you told me I was going to be champion. With yesterday’s race being quite chaotic I was nervous going into today because I did not understand the points situation.
“The target all weekend was to try and – realistically – win it in Argentina, so we could go to Qatar with less pressure. But we got another opportunity today and I felt a little bit better with the bike compared to yesterday.
“With the temperature going up the pace was not so fast I was able to manage the bike, and I could see my opportunity with Michael. He was struggling in some areas where we were strong. And we were weaker in some areas where he was strong.
“So I was putting that all together, learning that for a few laps and then putting my head down and getting the job done.”
Rea disagreed that this was the best championship, as he felt the first one is always the best, but it was unmistakably the most unlikely title of his five, especially after Alvaro Bautista won the first 11 races in succession.
Although many had written their season off, Rea, KRT and his pit crew kept finishing second, or as well as they could – so when it all went wrong for Bautista Rea was in position to sweep up wins again and prove just how consistently fast he is, not just how occasionally fast he is.
I hope that this lesson – because so many people wrote us off – but inside we knew that our opportunity would come sometime in the season. It came at Imola, and we started to win some races. I just hope that we can give this never give up attitude to people that think there is no light at the end of the tunnel.
“As a team, as a family at home, together with my coach and my trainer, we never give up. We went into the summer break with a championship lead, which was already very surprising. To get the championship done – not before the last round but before the last two rounds - is something that I though was never possible.
“It is a real lesson in ever giving up. I am so proud of my team and Kawasaki because the atmosphere in my whole team has been positive. At the beginning of the season, when it was tough, and I was facing one of the strongest competitors I have ever faced, instead of looking to each other and thinking, what are we going to do, I got an arm around me and I keep working, keep working and that really helped me through that middle part of the season.”
Rea has now scored 83 career race wins, 162 podiums all in from 274 starts – and five straight championship wins that surely make him the best WorldSBK rider ever.