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World champion Jonathan Rea gunning for rivals as historic six-in-a-row beckons

 

Jonathan Rea

Jonathan Rea accepts that he has become a victim of his own success in the World Superbike Championship.

The Ulster rider has dominated the series since making the switch to Kawasaki for the 2015 season, winning the title a record five years in a row.

However, Rea's serial winner status has inevitably made him the rider with the biggest target on his back. And the 33-year-old admits he can sense there are people in the World Superbike paddock who have become tired of his reign, not least his rivals on the track.

On his relationship with the challengers to his throne, Rea said: "I reckon if you can be respectful and civil, that's enough. It's funny because when I started winning in Superbikes, everybody was so happy for me. Now it's different and I completely get that. I can be civil with most but I just want to win and it doesn't matter if you're my best buddy or not.

"On the slowing down lap if somebody can't acknowledge that they've been beaten, shake your hand and say congratulations, then that's on them.

"If I finish second or third, I always try and go and find the winner and say 'good job'," added Rea, who has now won a record 89 World Superbike races.

"Over the years, Chaz (Davies) has probably been my biggest rival and then Tom (Sykes) when he was my team-mate. We always had an inter-team rivalry because he would have the same material as I did.

"I had run-ins with those guys, but now everything seems pretty normal, until it blows up again!"

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, only one round of the 2020 World Superbike Championship has taken place, at Phillip Island in Australia at the beginning of March.

After crashing out of the opening race, Rea bounced back to win the Superpole sprint race and also finished as the runner-up in race two.

He is currently fourth in the standings, 19 points behind his new Kawasaki team-mate Alex Lowes.

On Friday, the World Superbike Championship organisers announced that July's British round of the series had been postponed until later in the year, on a date to be confirmed. The Dutch round at Assen has also been postponed after initially being rescheduled from April to run from August 21-23.

The championship is set to resume at Jerez in Spain from July 31 until August 2, followed a week later with the Portuguese round at Portimao before returning to Spain at Motorland Aragon (August 28-30).

However, racing at these rounds will take place behind closed doors in line with social distancing measures and medical guidelines set by the Spanish and Portuguese governments at the time.

Meanwhile, the British MotoGP race at Silverstone - another popular event with Northern Ireland race fans - has been cancelled altogether. The event was due to take place from August 28-30.

Belfast Telegraph