The hard graft has already started for Jonathan Rea as the six-time World Superbike champion sets his sights on winning back the title in 2022.
Rea narrowly missed out on a seventh consecutive world crown last season by 13 points to Turkey’s Toprak Razgatlioglu in one of the most gripping title battles for years.
However, after a well-earned break following the final round of the 2021 Championship at the new Mandalika circuit in Indonesia — where Kawasaki king Rea won both races — the Northern Ireland star has ramped up his training and is preparing for the second winter test of the off-season later this month at Jerez in Spain.
The new campaign is scheduled to commence in early April at Motorland Aragon in Spain, with the traditional curtain-raiser at Phillip Island in Australia — normally held at the end of February — on the backburner again due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It’s a real strange one, the Superbike calendar, especially the last couple of years with Covid,” said Rea, who received an OBE in the Queen’s New Year Honours to add to the MBE he received for services to motorcycling in 2017.
“We’ve had a late-starting Championship and a late ending as well. Normally our Championships run from February to October but last year it was from May to November, while next year’s calendar starts at the beginning of April.
“In a normal season I would have the month of November off from specific training, so I wouldn’t look after my diet and I’d enjoy a few beers with friends and family.
“Then I would normally start back into pretty specific and routine training in December because that’s the time of the year when you can really build fitness, whereas during the season it’s about maintaining it,” added Rea.
“With a 13-round Championship you have to be strong all year round and you’re not building up for one big one-off event, so it’s about building a good base in the off-season and maintaining that in the season, and also trying to stay injury-free and healthy and well.
“Last year we finished our season in the middle of November, so I enjoyed a good five weeks doing very little specific training at all, although I rode my motocross bike a few times and I was active, playing football with my kids.
“My diet went out the window and I was just enjoying being normal, but from around the Christmas period it was back to the grind again.
“I’ve worked with my coach Jonny Davis for two or three seasons now and my health and fitness is monitored really tightly.”
Rea, who will celebrate his 35th birthday next month, says he has “never been fitter” as he builds towards the start of another long and physically demanding season.
“We regularly have full body scans and blood and fitness tests three, four or five times a year so my fitness levels have never been so good,” he said. “I always thought I was taking that side of things seriously when I was younger, but I never really was. I tended to lean on my natural ability in my younger years but once I got a bit older I took it more seriously and now, in this current period as I approach 35, I’m very regimented and I look after myself in a good way.
“I think that’s really prolonging my career as well and I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in year on year, but I think that’s more to do with the fact I’m coming from a situation where I used to just do what I thought I had to.
“But with a bit of structure now I feel I’m getting the best out of myself and I’m ready for the challenge ahead.”