Jonathan Rea will make a sensational switch to Yamaha for his 2024 World Superbike Championship campaign after choosing to leave Kawasaki.
The six-time world champion has been linked with a possible move for several weeks despite still having a year remaining on his contract with Kawasaki. Despite this, the decision has now been made and the two parties have mutually agreed for Rea to be released early following the conclusion of the 2024 season.
Rea will take the seat vacated by 2021 world champion, and fierce rival, Toprak Razgatliolglu who is making a surprise move to the factory BMW team next year. Rea has signed a two-year deal.
His decision brings an end to a partnership which has rewritten the WorldSBK record books. Rea and Kawasaki collected six consecutive titles between 2015 and 2020.
“I want to thank everyone at KMC and KRT for believing in me and giving me the opportunity to prove myself at the highest level,” Rea said. “I have learnt and grown so much as a person and a rider since the first day throwing my leg over the factory Ninja ZX-10R superbike.
“Winning six consecutive WorldSBK Championships will always be the most obvious highlight of my time with Kawasaki; but it will also be the amazing memories, the life lessons and the laughs that I will take with me into the future. And, for sure, it’s our mission to complete the 2023 season as strongly and with as much commitment as we have always shown.
“Now, looking back on our journey, it fills me with pride at the joy and happiness we have brought Kawasaki fans and Kawasaki owners around the world. This is not a goodbye, because you don’t say goodbye to family, but it is simply the end of this incredible chapter. I wish everyone at KRT the best of luck for the chapters that will surely follow. See you at the track.”
The last two-and-a-half seasons haven’t been as straight forward for the once unstoppable partnership. Rea lost out to Razgatlioglu in an outstanding title fight in 2021, and was then blown away by Alvaro Bautista on the Ducati in 2022.
2023 has seen Rea and Kawasaki fall further behind not only Bautista – who has truly dominated this year’s racing action – but also Razgatlioglu. Rea has just one win to his name from the opening 24 races, standing on the podium on 10 occasions.
The Northern Irishman will now seek a fresh challenge in the blue of Yamaha, proving that even at the age of 36 he still has the desire to try new things and take on new challenges in order to try and compete for victorious week in, week out once more.
Yamaha will be the third manufacturer that Rea has raced for in WorldSBK. Prior to his record-breaking spell with Kawasaki, Rea won 15 races with Honda.
“We are very happy to welcome Jonathan to the Yamaha family and we are very much motivated to collaborate with him for the future,” Eric de Seynes, President & CEO, Yamaha Motor Europe, said. “We have the same motivation to win, and the same passion for WorldSBK. Like him we have been world champions in recent years, and we want to be back on the top of the box once again. Jonathan’s drive, determination and hunger for success have been constants throughout his career and these attributes will contribute to our future common success.
“We truly believe that Jonathan can add to his World Championship tally, writing his name even larger in the history books, and we are equally confident that he can achieve this together with us. We are working hard to improve further our race proven Yamaha R1, to ensure that we provide Jonathan with exactly what he needs to achieve his and Yamaha’s goals in 2024 and 2025.”