Jonathan Rea coy on Kawasaki deal, could he defect for 2023 WorldSBK

Jonathan Rea is 'excited' about getting talks underway for a 2023 WorldSBK contract... but could the six-time champion consider leaving Kawasaki?

Jonathan Rea - Kawasaki Racing Team


Jonathan Rea says he ‘can’t wait to get something sorted’ for the 2023 WorldSBK Championship as he tops the list of prospective candidates for rival teams this ‘silly season’.

The record-breaking Kawasaki Racing Team rider is currently in the midst of fighting for a seventh WorldSBK Championship against Alvaro Bautista and Toprak Razgatlioglu, the latter having broken a streak of six consecutive titles.

With each of those championship wins coming in Kawasaki colours, Rea has enjoyed a long and exceptionally successful relationship with the Japanese manufacturer with 105 of his 117 wins coming in green.

However, as he comes up to the end of his current contract, the Ulsterman admits no talks have yet taken place about an extension, adding that he thought he’d have retired from the sport by now.

“2023 is a long way ahead, it’s both exciting and nervous times for me,” he told WorldSBK.com. 

“I am at the end of a contract so there is the excitement of what to do, but I haven’t really sat down with my own team to understand that I respectfully asked to focus on the championship and these four weeks will give me time to think about what is next. 

“I am excited about it, if you asked me three or four years ago I thought I’d be all retired by now  but I have so much fight left inside and feel I have as much to give, I can’t wait to get something sorted for 2023. We’ll see, we’ll savour the moment. 

“I have a great working relationship inside KRT and I owe them a lot to give me the opportunity to win a World Championship back in 2015, so let’s see…”

Could Jonathan Rea leave Kawasaki for the 2023 WorldSBK?

While Rea certainly wouldn’t begrudge penning another contract with Kawasaki for the 2023 WorldSBK season, a bit of reading between the lines ‘could’ suggest his options are more open then they have been during previous negotiation periods.

Ironically, however, there are precious few options available among the remaining four factory outfits.

While it is unlikely Rea would line up alongside Razgatlioglu in the same team, the Turk and his team-mate Andrea Locatelli are nonetheless signed and sealed at Yamaha for 2023.

Over at BMW, Scott Redding is understood to be on a two-year deal, while Michael van der Mark also looks likely to stay having disrupted his second campaign with the German manufacturer through injury.

Honda, meanwhile, have enjoyed a strong start to the 2022 WorldSBK season with rookie Xavi Vierge and especially ex-MotoGP rider Iker Lecuona, who rides high inside the overall top five right now. 

Of the two, Lecuona appears almost certain to stay, similarly Vierge, even if HRC might take a different stance if it had a chance of securing Rea 14 years after giving him his big WorldSBK break in 2009.

This leaves Ducati, a manufacturer that certainly has the funds to lure Rea away from Kawasaki and a potential seat available at the loss of Michael Ruben Rinaldi, who has been outclassed by both Redding and now Alvaro Bautista since joining the factory set-up.

However, Rea isn’t necessarily Ducati’s primary target with rumours suggesting it is keen to either promote Axel Bassani or place its MotoAmerica rider Danilo Petrucci alongside Bautista.