Table of contents:
It is unavoidable. Yes there are an absolute certainty in sport is that no matter how much you win one day you will lose. Valentino Rossi's streak of five consecutive World Cups was cut one day, just like Michael Schumacher's in Formula 1. The Boston Celtics stopped winning NBA rings and even Rafa Nadal has lost Roland Garros in 2021. It is the law of the sport.
Unless there is a miracle in a month in Indonesia, Jonathan Rea is going to stop being the world champion of Superbikes. From 2015 until today, the Northern Irishman has swept his Kawasaki, winning at times even with an outdated motorcycle. But, at 34, a new gunman has arrived in town, and Rea can only present the crown with honor.
Jonathan Rea makes his duels with Toprak Razgatlioglu a fond memory
The neutral fan, as a general rule, does not like sports monopolies. If you are not his fan, it is natural to want the one who has been winning for many years to lose for the same reason that in any competition the indifferent public is going to take the side of the one they consider inferior. You want to see new faces, changes, uncertainty … It is the magic of sport.
The 2021 season is having a common pattern in various motorsport categories. Three great colossi like Jonathan Rea, Marc Márquez and Lewis Hamilton are losing, or at least seeing endangered, its overwhelming dominance in its different categories. They have all been undefeated for years, and they are all giving in for one reason or another to the youth.
But the year of Rea is being inspiring. The great champion of series derived motorcycles is proving to be an example of sportsmanship and pride not only in victory, but also in defeat. Because, to be honest, it's practically a miracle that this Superbike World Championship is coming to Indonesia in these conditions.
Yes, it is undeniable that the fact that Rea is coming to Indonesia with options in the first place is due to fortune. Specifically, to the bad luck that Toprak Razgatlioglu has had throughout the season, and that it has caused him three abandonments totally removed from his responsibility in Assen, Barcelona and Portimao.
But that shouldn't make us look down on a prodigious season of Rea. With a Kawasaki ZX-10RR that has obviously become obsolete, the champion is going overboard to compensate for the pace that Toprak Razgatlioglu can naturally reach on his Yamaha YZF-R1 and Scott Redding on the Ducati Panigale V4 R.
The data shows it. Rea has crashed in the race in 2021 as many times as in the last four seasons together. Fly the Kawasaki, he takes risks that at his age and with his record, he would not have to take. With six world championships and a clearly inferior bike, another would limit himself to not hurting himself. But that's not Jonathan Rea.
If anyone still doubts the mechanical inferiority of Kawasaki just have a look at the brand classification, where those in green are third and far behind Ducati and Yamaha. It is true that Alex Lowes' injury makes up his classification, but no Kawasaki satellite has even come close to the podium. Seeing a Ducati or Yamaha is not uncommon.
In fact, it is a trend that has been repeated for years. The Kawasaki lagged behind the Ducati a few seasons ago, but Rea was riding beyond the possibilities of his motorcycle to neutralize the riders who were throwing him at Borgo Panigale from MotoGP: first Álvaro Bautista, then Scott Redding and beforehand Chaz Davies.
But it is not only a miracle that Rea arrives with title options in Indonesia, also what the fact that the rivalry with Razgatlioglu has not exploded. And in that the main responsible is also being Rea. The Northern Irishman is turning the other cheek, being chivalrous and handling that edge very well.
In recent races it has been possible to clearly see how the tension between Razgatlioglu and Rea has increased both on and off the track, but even so we can still see the two champions, the one who already is and the one who will be, greeting each other. with some appreciation after the second race at San Juan Villicum. They are making their rivalry a pleasant memory.
It would be very easy, but very easy, if something had already happened. Razgatlioglu is an aggressive rider by nature, is not able to go fast otherwise. It is his style and it is based on controlled chaos. Throughout the season we've seen more than one border maneuver on his part, and in recent races Rea is starting to respond.
With a difference: it gives the feeling that Rea always knows where the limit is, how far it can go and how far it is no longer worth it in exchange for just another World Cup. It's being a pleasure to see Rea pilot in defeat, is handing over the crown as the proud knight that he has been during his reign.
Someday remembering the duels between Jonathan Rea and Toprak Razgatlioglu will be a pleasant memory, and that is the gift that these two geniuses are giving to Superbikes, and the one that Marc Márquez and Valentino Rossi were not able to give to MotoGP. Let's hope it doesn't break down in Mandalika.
Now there is Indonesia, and the only realistic option to Rea is to make a triplet and that Razgatlioglu suffers a misfortune again in one of the two long races. As realistic as it can be to make a triplet with an outdated motorcycle, of course. But never underestimate the heart of a champion. And less if it is Jonathan Rea's.