One of the paddock’s worst-kept secrets is now official, after Kawasaki announced Johnny Rea would be joining its WSBK squad, racing alongside Tom Sykes for the 2015 season.
Rea, leaves the Ten Kate Pata Honda team after winning four races this season, finishing third in the standings. He has won 15 races and secured 42 podiums in 140 starts since joining the series in 2009, and is widely regarded as one of the most gifted riders in the championship.
Kawasai team manager Guim Roda said: “After three years working with Loris Baz to grow up a young talent, we will start in 2015 a new strategy, with an experienced and fully formed rider Johnny Rea. We are sure he can increase the whole team performance and he will be a very good team-mate with Tom Sykes.
“Both have a big respect for each other, and I’m sure both guys will increase their performance, searching the limits of the Ninja ZX-10R. We expect to put on track two very strong riders next year so it is our idea try to win back the title with our two British weapons.”
It was widely expected that the 27-year-old Ulsterman would make the move to MotoGP after years of loyalty to HRC. He won the Suzuka eight-hour race riding the TOHO Racing with Moriwaki Honda in 2012 and successfully deputised for the injured Casey Stoner on the Repsol Honda in the same year. However, a ride on the Drive M7 Aspar customer Honda for 2015 went to Eugene Laverty.
Meanwhile newly-crowned WSBK champion has moved from Aprilia to replace Rea at Pata Honda. The 32-year-old Frenchman, who won five races this season, signed following Aprilia’s reluctance to commit to any plans for 2015 and this was seen as a sign that the Noale team would scale back its WSBK efforts to concentrate on MotoGP.
This will be the first time Guintoli has raced Hondas in WSBK though he enjoys close ties with chief sponsor Pata, having raced a Pata-sponsored Ducati in 2012.
He said: “I brought Pata their first victories and we have a strong relationship. I’m looking forward to tackling this new challenge and I can’t wait to get going. Johnny Rea has obviously been strong on the CBR all season and sometimes he’s been very strong! So I think there is definitely a big potential with the bike and I think the new rules for next year will suit it. So for us this is good news and I can’t wait to understand how it works, but it looks like a really good package and I’m looking forward to getting the first impressions soon.”
Guintoli partners Michael Van Der Mark in the Ten Kate run squad, with the Dutchman replacing the outgoing Leon Haslam.