In 2015 ’JR’ proved to be almost the most dominant champion in the history of the category. In 2016, on a new model, he resisted greater title challenges but still came out on top. In 2017, on another updated and sharpened version of the Ninja ZX-10R Rea made WorldSBK history with three titles in a row. His success has continued apace, taking championship wins every year between 2015 and 2020. Now a six-time champion - a truly unprecedented status to hold - Rea approaches the 2022 season just as hungry for success as he ever was.
The talents of former junior motocross champion Rea were evident from an early age and he made the jump to roadracing in 2003. Riding in British Supersport earned his ride in BSB Championship, becoming the youngest rider to score a pole position in this prestigious national championship, in 2005.
He became runner-up in the 2007 BSB title but by then his gaze alighted on the WSB paddock - and the FIM Supersport World Championship class in particular.
Runner-up in the WSS class in 2008 he made the leap to WorldSBK racing even before the end of the season. As soon as his chances of winning the Supersport title were gone he took over a Superbike ride with his team in the final round in Portugal, scoring points and impressing all with his pace.
His rookie World SBK season saw him finish inside the top five, with two wins mixed into his total of eight podiums. A top result for a first season rider and a new star was born inside the SBK paddock. From 2009 until the end of 2014 Rea proved to be the top Honda rider in the SBK championship.
In 2010 he went one better in terms of championship results and posted four wins, a single season total that he would not match again until 2014. He was on course for a top three finish until he was injured with two rounds to go. In 2011 he placed ninth after a pre-season injury affected his start and then a mid-season fall caused him to miss too much of the season, meaning he finished an artificially low ninth overall. Despite his injury problems he still won two races.
Four race wins in 2012 saw Jonathan fifth in the title chase but bad luck with injury was to return in 2013. A crash at the German round, on an oil spill, broke his femur and finished his season. He ended up ninth overall and kept up his record of winning at least one race every season since he joined SBK full-time. That record was added to in 2014, as he rode to third place in the championship overall, his best ever overall finish to that point, with four race wins to make a career total of 15 before the start of the 2015 season, his first with Kawasaki.
His astounding 2015 included 14 wins in his haul of 23 podium finishes, and a championship win that was sewn up long before the end of the racing year.
In 2016 Rea was a clear champion in his second Kawasaki year scoring nine race wins, almost reaching the magic 500 points barrier once again.
After such a start to his Kawasaki career the possibility of another title was a real one in 2017, but his achievements on the Ninja ZX-10R exceeded his wildest dreams as he made history, and in a number of ways.
For 2018 Rea once more proved to be the class of the field on the potent Ninja ZX-10RR taking his fourth title to match his fellow British rider Carl Fogarty’s record championship total. Even Fogarty, however, had not quite managed to win his four titles in succession.
On a heavily revamped 2019 Ninja ZX-10RR, which was brought in to maximise engine performance after rule changes arrived for the previous season, Rea’s supremacy was truly challenged at the beginning. Over the full year, however, Jonathan, KRT and the newest Kawasaki overcame all comers. He took the championship lead at his home round at Donington Park and then went on to win the championship by a clear 165 points. Five titles in a row for rider, team and manufacturer - WorldSBK really had seen nothing like it.
In 2020 the triumvirate of Rea, KRT and Kawasaki faced a whole new challenge. They overcame all the risks and restrictions inherent in racing for a world championship during a global pandemic with Riders’ and Manufacturers’ championships secured in what was an eight round/24 race season. A new landscape in almost every possible way but yet again Rea overcame every hurdle to score his sixth straight title.
In 2021, on an improved Ninja ZX-10RR, Rea battled with eventual champion Toprak Razgatlioglu throughout. A thrilling finale, in which Rea won both races at the all-new circuit of Mandalika, saw Jonathan miss out on championship number seven by just 13 points.
In 2022 the statistically greatest World SBK rider of all time will be out to regain the status of world champion again, with a will-to-win undimmed by all his vast previous success.