2012 is turning into one of those scrapbook years of great memories for Ballyclare’s Jonathan Rea.
The Honda World Superbike star, who recently got married and moved into his new base in the Isle of Man just days later, has now re-written the history books as the first British rider to win the hugely prestigious Suzuka eight-hour race in Japan.
Partnering Japanese riders Kosuke Akiyoshi and Tady Okada, aboard the factory FCC TSR Honda on Sunday past, the 25-year-old has added his name to an illustrious list of famous names to have won the eight-hour, which means so much to his employers — Honda Racing Corporation (HRC).
The question now is, will Rea follow the likes of former winners Colin Edwards, Valentino Rossi, Mick Doohan and Wayne Rainey — to name but a few — into the MotoGP arena alongside fellow Brit Cal Crutchlow?
With Honda’s main two seats already filled in MotoGP for 2013 by Dani Pedrosa and new kid on the block Marc Marquez, and the satellite team’s opting for European names to appease big money sponsors, the chances with Honda are remote for Rea — who many feel deserves, at the very least, additional factory support in World Superbike to allow his current package to be consistently competitive.
On his record-breaking achievement, Rea said: “Winning Suzuka is like fulfilling a dream and the moment will last forever.
“The event may have lost some of its kudos in Europe but here in Japan it is as big as ever.”
Ever the gentleman he respectfully thanked his fellow team-mates and crew, saying: “I really appreciate the efforts of Kosuke Akiyoshi, Tady Okada, Honda and all the FCC TSR team staff. Kosuke was riding very, very fast and Tady gave me a lot of really useful advice. I want to thank them both so much.” This weekend it’s back to the day job for Rea with the Ten Kate managed Honda World Superbike effort, as the series moves to Silverstone.
“I’m a little tired and my body is adjusting after returning to the UK on Monday, but I’m looking forward to the weekend,” said Rea before reflecting on his last WSB outing at Brno. “Last time out was disappointing but I’m quite optimistic about Silverstone as the bike worked well for me there in 2010. It’s always great to meet the British fans and ride in front of them, so hopefully we can get on the podium again.”
Rea has slipped to fifth place in the standings with fellow Ulsterman Eugene Laverty (Aprilia) now just 39 points behind him in sixth.