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Rachit Thukral

Rea signs two-year Yamaha WSBK deal after Kawasaki exit

As reported by on Saturday, Rea will replace BMW-bound Toprak Razgatlioglu at the factory Yamaha squad next year, partnering incumbent Andrea Locatelli.

Rea still had a year left on his contract with Kawasaki, the marque with which he scored all his six titles as well as more than a 100 race wins, but a decline in results in recent years prompted the two parties to mutually agree to an early exit.

Yamaha was initially looking for a rider within its ranks to take the place of 2021 champion Razgatlioglu, but it had a change of heart and started searching for a high-profile name that could lead it to championship glory.

While other names like BMW’s Scott Redding entered the picture, it eventually zeroed in on Rea, who was getting increasingly frustrated with a lack of competitiveness of the Kawasaki ZX-10RR.

Eric de Seynes, President & CEO, Yamaha Motor Europe said of the Ulsterman's appointment: “We are very happy to welcome Jonathan to the Yamaha family and we are very much motivated to collaborate with him for the future. 

Toprak Razgatlioglu, Pata Yamaha WorldSBK, Jonathan Rea, Kawasaki Racing Team WSBK (Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images)

“We have the same motivation to win, and the same passion for WorldSBK. Like him we have been world champions in recent years and we want to be back on the top of the box once again. 

“Jonathan’s drive, determination and hunger for success have been constants throughout his career and these attributes will contribute to our future common success. 

“We truly believe that Jonathan can add to his world championship tally, writing his name even larger in the history books, and we are equally confident that he can achieve this together with us. 

“We are working hard to improve further our race-proven Yamaha R1, to ensure that we provide Jonathan with exactly what he needs to achieve his and Yamaha’s goals in 2024 and 2025.”

Rea was announced as a Yamaha rider on Monday afternoon, hours after Kawasaki confirmed that he will be leaving the squad at the end of the 2023 season.

Rea has scored just a single win this year after eight rounds, in a wet/dry Most race, and he currently sits a distant third in the championship.

While Yamaha hasn’t exactly been able to take the fight to the dominant Ducati of Alvaro Bautista either, its R1 has proved to be far more competitive, with Razgatlioglu winning five races so far - including four in the last three rounds.

Locatelli on the other R1 has outperformed his Ducati counterpart Michael Ruben Rinaldi, giving Yamaha a six-point lead in the teams’ standings.

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