What a month for Northern Ireland... Jonathan Rea lifts his third consecutive world title at Magny Cours, Kris Meeke wins the Spanish World Rally round and the national football team have even made the World Cup play-offs! We had a few nights out in Belfast on JR’s return; we went to the Northern Ireland vs Germany game at Windsor stadium and then out for a few scoops – not a big one, just nice and relaxed with family and friends. He is pretty grounded, but his homecoming the night before at Ballyclare leisure centre was pretty mental. A large group of local bikers met him at a neighbouring town and escorted him in – that was a really nice touch. The halls were packed full with about as many again outside who turned up and couldn’t get in. He stayed until every single person who wanted an autograph or photo got one.
I don’t know where he gets his patience from. We had all long gone home and he was back on the radio when I got up the next morning, then he did some TV stuff... I was a right diva when I got asked to do all that stuff (many moons ago), but he takes it all in his stride. We all have our favourite riders in any championship. You are either a Rossi fan (like me) or Marquez, Davies, Rea, Shakey, Haslam or whoever, and fans are getting pretty staunch these days. Rossi isn’t going to win another world championship by the looks of it, but Jonathan will win another WSB title, at least, and maybe more if he defects to Ducati when the new V4 comes along. He will probably stay in WSB for the rest of his career.
Not everyone agrees but I think it is unfortunate that we won’t see him compete in MotoGP (he is one of the few Lorenzo fans, incidentally). Teams in MotoGP now have a different agenda and have bought into the belief that MotoGP riders will only come from the Moto2 ranks. I think that is a gamble as not all good Moto2 riders make good MotoGP riders. When I watched Scott Redding in Moto2, for example, I thought he would have easily been as good as Marquez when he moved to the premier class. If I was a team owner or sponsor, JR would be top of my shopping list right now. I can hear all the doubters cry, “How do you come up with the assumption that Johnny would make it in MotoGP?” Well, the only other rider currently competing in the class who came directly from WSB is Cal.
He won a World Supersport title; JR had a second in Supersport. Cal achieved a third in BSB; JR had a second... In their first full year in WSB both achieved fifth in the standings. Cal didn’t hang around, and moved on to MotoGP with Tech 3 Yamaha, his first results being 11th and eighth. JR scored an eighth and a seventh as a wildcard on a Repsol Honda, so we could say they were on a pretty similar level throughout their careers. But that’s all academic – my point is that JR is riding at the top of his game (as is Cal) and this would be the ideal time to make a move to MotoGP if a factory seat became available. But this isn’t going to happen: factories don’t want to take any chances these days is what I’ve been told; they prefer the Moto3/2 route. Next up for me is working with young KTM racers at the Jerez WSB round.
My department, KTM Customer Racing, are running the RC390 world final and we have two wildcard riders racing in the SSP300 championship for the first time there. The top three or four riders from each of the nine countries that run the single-make RC390 cup all compete at the final for a chance to get a helping hand next year at their national series. KTM will support the winner of the world final with a step up into a national SSP300 championship. Most regions will replicate the World Supersport 300 series next year and part of the support includes a wildcard ride at a world championship round. The second and third riders will be offered a full test day on a fully prepped SSP300 RC390, organized by our department. And the first 10 riders in the overall classification will be supported with a dedicated Customer Racing sponsoring package, which should help them for their 2018 activities. Yep, I’m flat-out supporting the JRs of the future!