Jonathan Rea has ended speculation over his future after penning a new two-year deal to stay in World Superbikes with the Kawasaki Racing Team.
The Northern Ireland rider had been at the centre of speculation over the possibility of a move to the MotoGP World Championship, but Rea has now finalised his plans and says he is happy to ‘keep writing this incredible story with Kawasaki’.
He had several options for 2019 and beyond, but the 31-year-old has opted to stay put.
Rea extended his lead in the championship to 65 points at Brno in the Czech Republic at the weekend, despite crashing out of race two on Sunday following contact with team-mate Tom Sykes.
He also set a new record of victories when he claimed his 60th win in Saturday’s opening race, putting him ahead of Carl Fogarty.
Confirming his new Kawasaki deal, which will ensure Rea remains in World Superbikes until at least 2020, he said: “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 finalise everything now, so that we can concentrate on the remaining races of 2018.
“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.”
Over the past three-and-a-half seasons, Rea has enjoyed a wins-per-race ratio of just under 50 per-cent since he joined Kawasaki. He is already the most successful Kawasaki World Superbike rider in history, with his 45 victories achieved on either the Ninja ZX-10R or Ninja ZX-10RR machines.
Steve Guttridge, Kawasaki Race Planning Manager, said: “Signing Jonathan originally was so cool. The foundation for his dominance was built up very quickly. JR deciding to say with KRT after three World Championships and breaking records is actually even cooler.
“All those strong relationships can remain in place. It is the same goals and motivations that we share with JR, and the dedicated KRT crew, engineers and team staff. To continue making history together with Kawasaki inside World Superbike.”
Guim Roda, KRT Team Manager, added: “We can celebrate that Johnny decides to stay two more years in Kawasaki and running in World Superbike. It is important that he has decided that World Superbike is the place that still makes him motivated.
“I’m sure many fans would like to see him running with the top guys in MotoGP, but we can ask the guys from MotoGP to come here to see the battle too. The level Rea has now is so high and this only will make the level of other riders and manufacturers in World Superbike increase.
“All will be forced to give their maximum to beat Johnny, so we all must be happy and motivated. Of course, we all will continue working to improve the package so I’m sure the show will continue. Other riders and manufacturers will need to work hard if wants to have the honour of being a World Superbike Champion. The show must go on.”