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Kawasaki announces Rea's exit ahead of Yamaha switch

Kawasaki has announced that Jonathan Rea will leave the team at the end of the 2023 World Superbike Championship ahead of his impending switch to Yamaha.

Jonathan Rea, Kawasaki Racing Team WSBK

As reported by Motorsport.com on Saturday, Rea will part ways with Kawasaki after nine seasons during which he clinched six consecutive titles, 104 wins and 214 podiums - becoming one of the most successful riders in WSBK’s history in the process.

Rea had a deal with Kawasaki for 2024 but the two parties have decided to split with a year left on the contract through mutual consent.

It follows a decline in Kawasaki’s WSBK fortunes in recent years, with ZX-10RR proving to be no match to the dominant Ducati Panigale V4 R and even finding it hard to go toe-to-toe with the Yamaha R1.

Eight rounds into the 2023 season, Rea has scored just a single win, in a wet-to-dry race at Most, and he sits a distant third in the championship behind Ducati’s Alvaro Bautista and Yamaha rider Toprak Razgatlioglu.

“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. 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,” said Rea.

“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.”

Jonathan Rea, Kawasaki Racing Team WSBK

Jonathan Rea, Kawasaki Racing Team WSBK

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Rea may have seen through his deal but a vacancy opened up at Yamaha when Razgatlioglu announced a shock move to BMW earlier in the year, giving the 36-year-old an option to race in more competitive machinery.

Yamaha is yet to officially announce that Rea will join the Japanese manufacturer next year to partner Andrea Locatelli.

Rea’s impending switch to Yamaha opens up a coveted seat at Kawasaki alongside Alex Lowes, who will remain with the team for another season in 2024.

Speaking about Rea’s departure, Kawasaki team manager Guim Roda said:

“In life as well as racing,  priorities define the path to follow. I am very happy and proud that during these nine years Johnny has defined his priorities with KRT and has given us so many successes. 

“I consider myself, our team, Kawasaki and all our fans worldwide, privileged to have been part of this journey.  

“Whichever direction he goes in the future, I hope he can continue to grow as a rider. The task we have now is to finish the 2023 season as best we can with the tools we have been able to forge this year. 

“As always, we will continue to look for improvements and seek advantage wherever possible. KRT is committed to putting on a good show with Johnny during his last four races on the formidable and impressive Ninja ZX-10RR that he has become synonymous with”.

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