‘Never say never’ - Is Jonathan Rea considering Yamaha MotoGP rumours after all?

Jonathan Rea admits 'MotoGP is on his mind' amid brewing speculation he could be targeted by Yamaha to join Petronas SRT for the 2022 MotoGP season

Jonathan Rea - Kawasaki Racing Team, Kawasaki ZX-10RR, WorldSBK, Assen

Jonathan Rea has softened his response to bubbling rumours he could become a target for a move into the MotoGP World Championship with Yamaha next season, despite initially dismissing the speculation as just that.

On Thursday Rea scrubbed any suggestion he could be MotoGP bound by saying he had ‘read the same things and was equally surprised’ to be linked with Petronas SRT Yamaha for the 2022 MotoGP season.

However, in an apparent change of opinion in the days after, Rea has caused a stir by softening that view to leave the door ajar for Yamaha to attempt pushing it.

"There’s always [the opportunity] and it’s always [in my mind]; I feel like I’m riding the best I’ve ever ridden and that I’m really in the peak of my life balance, so you know, never say never..." 

The six-time WorldSBK Champion is considered among motorcycling’s true greats of the modern era despite his MotoGP ‘caps’ being limited to a brief two-GP outing with Honda back in 2012.

While Rea had made his MotoGP intentions known during his six-year tenure with Honda, the switch to Kawasaki - which doesn’t compete in the premier class - seemingly put those rumours to bed, even if the move has since brought him extraordinary success at WorldSBK level with six consecutive titles.

Indeed, while Rea has often been asked whether he would be interested in a move to MotoGP, he has made it clear he would only do so with a competitive (factory) team. Moreover, the Ulsterman has more recently said he considers the window of opportunity to make the step closed.

Even so, speculation is mounting that Yamaha might be prepared to make him an attractive offer to join its Petronas SRT Yamaha satellite squad - a six-time GP winner in 2020 - in place of Franco Morbidelli, who is primed to replace Maverick Vinales in the Factory squad.

Why Petronas SRT Yamaha could be the MotoGP deal Rea is waiting for?

The change in rhetoric from one day to another comes as a surprise. 

Rea, more than most, is down the line with his comments and rarely deviates from a well-worn script, so much so that his comments on Thursday about being surprised to be linked to a MotoGP deal weren’t otherwise surprising to us.

While his revised comments aren’t exactly definitive, you get the impression someone is having a word in his ear to put himself in Yamaha’s shop window in case it does come knocking with an attractive offer.

Indeed, while the structure of MotoGP means it was always a stretch for him to expect the factory team he craves to pick up the phone, Petronas SRT does a very good impression of a works outfit as demonstrated by its myriad wins in 2020.

It’s also worth noting the Yamaha M1, with its rider-focused chassis, would be well-suited to Rea’s unflappable riding style, one that he has continued to hone over the years to such an extent he seems to get better with every passing year.

He won’t come cheap, not least because Yamaha would need to negotiate him out of a (lucrative) multi-year Kawasaki contract, but if Rea is willing, there is every chance he is the coup waiting to be unleashed on the series.