Northern Ireland’s Jonathan Rea secured his first ever World Superbike title with two races left on the calendar in what has been a season of domination for the Kawasaki Racing rider.
At the age of 28 this is Rea’s first world title after he came runner up in the World Supersport championship back in 2008.
In his first race as a Kawasaki rider he took the opening win of the season at Philip Island, and by the Chang Thai round exactly one month later it was clear he was a serious title contender; as he did the double by over four seconds in both races.
The series rolled into Europe for the third round at Motorland Aragon and Rea’s momentum didn’t halt as he was able to take the win in the first race and a second position, over three seconds behind Chaz Davies on the Ducati.
Holland saw the 28 year old back to his double winning ways and the Ulsterman secured two victories in narrow margins ahead of Welsh rival Davies. Dominating race one and leading the pack from start to finish, race two proved a little more tricky for Rea as he made his way though the competitive field.
Heading to Italy with a championship lead of 50 points over Leon Haslam aboard the Honda, he was able to secure another double victory at Imola and was cemented as the rider to beat in 2015.
Coming home to Donington Park for the lone British round of the season, Rea’s team-mate Sykes proved too hard to beat as he secured his third double win in a row at the Leicestershire circuit. Despite his best efforts in the final corner at Goddards Rea could only manage a pair of second positions on his ZX-10R in front of the home fans.
Bouncing back from his first weekend of the season without a win, Rea stood on the top step of the podium twice in Portugal, ahead of Sykes in race one and Giugliano in race two.
Heading back to Misano saw him continue to finish in the top two; securing a second position followed by a win along the Adriatic coast, beating Italian Giugliano to the line in race two.
Heading to America in July at the famous Laguna Seca circuit, we saw Rea unable to finish in the top two for the first time all season as he went home with two third position trophies.
However the Irishman didn’t stay off the top step for long as he won the opening race at Sepang International Circuit, before the championship had over a month’s break. Following his stunning form so far this season, the next round at Jerez would be his first chance at getting a hand on the championship crown.
Some would say the nerves got the better of the Irishman as the championship visited Spain for the second time of the season, as we didn’t see his usual display of dominant form aboard the Kawaskai. However he did all he needed to do to secure the title even though it was the first time he finished off the podium all year; getting two fourth positions was enough to make him the 2015 World Champion.
World Superbike commentator and journalist Steve English discusses Rea’s dominance in 2015, and how impressive his season was.
Rea explains his emotions at Jerez: “This is an amazing moment for me in my career because I started schoolboy motocross when I was six years old, spending time at race circuits with my father and growing up in a racing environment, so I always dreamed of being world champion. So to finally be here and be world champion is incredible. There has been a lot of hard work from myself, sacrifice and dedication from my family, but most of all this championship would not be possible without Kawasaki.
Right now it has not sunk in. When my mechanics were putting the number 1 sticker on the bike out on track it felt really strange but I am just so happy and grateful for this opportunity. There have been many ups and hard times. Moments like this are even more special because of the challenges I have faced with injuries, a broken wrist and a bad fracture of my femur. When I watched the 2002 World Championship between Colin Edwards and Troy Bayliss I got so much inspiration from this it became my dream. It became like, ‘I have to do this.’ So even in tough times I never doubted my ability. Finally we are here today so hopefully this can also inspire some other young riders to start, or for young riders who are already racing to never give up on their dream. Right now it still does not feel real but I am world champion and I am really proud.”
Now with the pressure off himself and his team he was able to come back out at Magny Cours in France and take his fourth double victory of the year and have the pace needed to prove why he was crowned Champion just two weeks before.
Unfortunately he wasn’t able to end his season with such strong form as a second position in race one then led to a retirement in race two and the end of his season.
Despite this he finished with 548 championship points and an 132 point lead over Davies in second. Having led 179 laps in total over this season, it was only his Kawasaki team-mate Sykes who got close to his rival with 171 laps led, proving the green machine was the one to beat in 2015.