Jonathan Rea will spend another two years at the Kawasaki Racing Team garage, in the World Superbike Championship paddock, with the British rider signing a two-year contract with the factory Kawasaki team this week.
The news is perhaps not a surprise to the WorldSBK loyal, but Rea’s continuance with Kawasaki was by no means a sure thing, with the now three-time World Superbike champion having several competing offers in the paddock, as well as links to rides in the MotoGP Championship.
Choosing to stay at Kawasaki, and likely add more race-wins and championship titles to his record in the process, Rea continues the unstoppable force that is himself and the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10RR.
“I am more than happy to continue in these next two seasons with the Kawasaki Racing Team. Since the end of last season we have already started to talk about continuing our partnership, so it’s nice to finalize everything now, so that we can concentrate on the remaining races of 2018,” said Jonathan Rea in the Kawasaki press release.
“From the moment I arrived at the end of 2014, I was welcomed into the Kawasaki family and since then we have achieved success beyond our wildest dreams. Here is where I want to stay. Of course it feels natural to keep writing this incredible story together, and I want to thank everyone in the Kawasaki Racing Team for believing in me and for this opportunity.”
“Together we will work harder than ever to keep the ZX-10RR at the front of WorldSBK in the future. I have the best team of people around me to ensure that we can continue fighting for the World Championship.”
The big question now is where Rea’s rivals will land for 2019 – with rumors still circling as to the futures of Chaz Davies and Tom Sykes, and whom they could possibly be riding for next season.
For Tom Sykes, his future at Kawasaki seems uncertain, especially as tensions between Rea and Sykes continue to escalate – their clash in Brno perhaps being the tipping point in Sykes’ future.
Sykes has been linked to several riders in the WorldSBK paddock, though like Rea, his best option might be to stay put, as KRT continues to dominate the paddock.
Tensions aside, Sykes might be Kawasaki’s best #2 option, save for one man, Mr. Chaz Davies. Such a signing would be a coup for Kawasaki, on multiple levels.
Aside from acquiring one of the best riders in the series, such a move would help eliminate Kawasaki’s only true rival: Ducati Corse.
It is no secret that the only team that seems capable of challenging Kawasaki on the race track is Ducati Corse, even more so now that the Panigale V4 is nearly read for racing on the world stage, and will the weapon of choice for the 2019 season.
Rumors have circled about Chaz Davies, and whether he would stay with the Italian squad, and aside from a jump to KRT, Davies’ best option also seems to be staying where he is.
Davies on more than one occasion has taken Ducati to the promised land of parc fermé, and the Italian squad is committed to winning a World Superbike Championship. It would be hard to see Ducati letting Davies go, and more speculation is being made about the team’s #2 seat with Marco Melandri.
Melandri’s future is in doubt for 2019, with the Italian rider showing mixed results, of both disappointment and flashes of brilliance. Said to be on a bargain contract, keeping Melandri might make sense from a money perspective, but it is hard to see his value from a results orientation. Siphoning a talent from another team could be a strong move for Ducati.
With the MotoGP silly season winding down, the WorldSBK riders market is open for business. It shouldn’t be too long of a ride, but we might see some surprises along the way.
Source: Kawasaki Racing Team; Photos: © 2018 Jensen Beeler / Asphalt & Rubber – All Rights Reserved