WorldSBK’s lack of prestige limited Rea's MotoGP chance – Carl Fogarty

Carl Fogarty believes Jonathan Rea could compete on a high level in MotoGP but isn't given the chance because of WorldSBK's lack of prestige

Jonathan Rea - Kawasaki Racing Team

Motorcycling legend Carl Fogarty says he is in no doubt Jonathan Rea would acquit himself well in the MotoGP arena but has ultimately lost the chance to do so because WorldSBK doesn’t command the same ‘prestige’ it once did.

Last year, Rea surpassed ‘King Carl’ to become the most successful WorldSBK rider of all time with a record fifth title – all achieved back-to-back – and has now won more races than any other rider in the series’ 34-year history.

As one of WorldSBK’s relative veterans, having made his race debut back in 2008, Rea chased a promotion to MotoGP when he competed with Honda, but a move to Kawasaki in 2015 – which doesn’t compete in the premier GP class – effectively put an end to those hopes.

Nonetheless, it hasn’t stopped the occasional rumour that Rea could still ascend to the series and many have speculated as to whether his dominance on the WorldSBK stage would translate to him performing at the front in MotoGP.

For Fogarty, the WorldSBK doesn’t hold the same ‘prestige’ as it did during its perceived heydays of the 1990s and 2000s, claiming it is the reason why Rea’s success isn’t recognised enough by those in MotoGP.

Comparing Rea to Crutchlow – a three-time MotoGP winner – Fogarty nonetheless says that doesn’t discredit the efforts of Rea who is nonetheless performing at a very high level regardless of his views of the series’ general quality.

“Jonathan Rea is very fast, I see him on the same level as Cal Crutchlow - only he doesn't fall as much,” he told Speedweek. “There are very good riders in the Superbike World Championship who all want to ride MotoGP. When the Superbike World Championship received more attention and more people came to the race track, Johnny’s success would have caused a stir. 

“But that is not his fault. His job is to hit the slopes and kick his opponents in the ass. Since MotoGP, the Superbike World Championship has simply not had the prestige that it used to. 

“Back then, it was the fastest four-stroke series, today it's MotoGP. That's not Jonathan’s problem, he’s without a doubt the best Superbike rider in his generation.”

How would Jonathan Rea fare in MotoGP?

It’s always tricky to answer hypotheticals, but there remains a general belief Rea is the best active motorcycle racer not currently competing in MotoGP. 

Many point to Rea’s two-race outing with Repsol Honda way back in 2012 as hampering his chances of progressing, but in hindsight his eighth and seventh place finishes at Misano and Aragon deserve more credit than they received at the time even before you consider he was doing it with relatively little practice.

There is no doubt that Rea would acquit himself just fine in MotoGP but it’s unlikely – less so now – he’d ever get the automatic factory ride he’d need to make it worthwhile. While a satellite outfit could legitimately take a punt on him, it doesn’t quite compare to winning regularly in a well-paid Kawasaki job.

Fogarty’s words appear to suggest only a select few WorldSBK riders that have come up through the production ranks could acquit themselves on the MotoGP because the series doesn’t command the same respect as a breeding ground for talent as it once did.

That can be attributed to Dorna’s efforts to differentiate the series’, with those loyal to WorldSBK frustrated it’s become a relative support act to MotoGP in international motorcycle racing terms.