The news of the week is Johnny Rea's move to Yamaha starting from 2024. After nine years spent with Kawasaki, the Northern Irishman has decided to change, accepting the challenge with the tuning-fork manufacturer.
It’s a major twist, which messes up the cards of the Superbike market. On the eve of the Magny-Cours round, the Cannibal wanted to explain to us the reasons for this choice made over the last few months. For contractual reasons, as he is still linked to Kawasaki, Rea was unable to talk about 2024 as well as Yamaha.
“I don't remember exactly when, but some time ago I started thinking about this possibility – he began – this choice represented the most difficult moment of my career, because in the Kawasaki adventure there is a piece of my life. I thought about it for a long time and in the end, I made this decision."
Johnny: why did you decide to leave Kawasaki for Yamaha?
“I needed something new, a new challenge. There were in fact several options within my contract. I considered retiring as well as continuing and all the other possibilities. During the summer I thought about it and just after Most I made this decision. If I remember correctly, it was the first weeks of August."
Did you also talk about it with your wife?
“I obviously talked about it with Tatia since she is the closest person to me, and she knows everything about me. We talked for a long time. At the beginning of the season, I spoke to her about the possibility of retiring, but deep down I knew I could still give something. She was also convinced of my potential, as well as the fact that I could still win. In the end, here was the choice to go to Yamaha."
How stressful has it been to fight with this Kawasaki against the other manufacturers?
“In recent years Kawasaki has worked to put me in the best position. Obviously, Kawasaki is a large company, involved in various sectors. There are obviously internal dynamics, and the Japanese mentality is different. Obviously, I'm sad about the decision to leave, but as we know all stories come to an end."
Who will take your place? Bassani? Rinaldi, Huertas?
“I honestly don't know. This is the team's choice and I leave the decision up to them. Obviously, I'm curious to find out the name of my replacement."
There are rumours in the paddock that, following your departure, Kawasaki could retire after 2024?
"Really? I don’t believe that. Why shouldn't it continue? I think this is a great team and I think they will move forward."
What is your best memory of these nine years?
“There are great moments that will last forever. I remember 2015, the battle with Tom Sykes, as well as the victory in Suzuka after having only done two tests. It was a truly incredible moment, because the 8 Hours is something special for how they experience it in Japan."
What have these nine years in green taught you?
“Interesting… I learned to win and accept defeat. At the same time, I learned what it means to have the right people at your side, because with the right people you can achieve great results and we have seen this in recent years. Then I learned many other things like Spanish words, but I don't know how to cook paella."
Aside from the victories, what will Rea be remembered for at Kawasaki?
“I think I was a good, honest and correct person, who always worked to bring home the best. There are no superstars on our team. We are all great people, from those who work in the garage to those involved in hospitality."
Do you think Marc Marquez will follow your decision?
“I can't talk about Marquez. For sure Marc is one of the greatest talents in the world and his position does not reflect his potential”.