Jonathan Rea relishing 'underdog' tag in bid to reclaim title from Toprak Razgatliogl
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Jonathan Rea relishing 'underdog' tag in bid to reclaim title from Toprak Razgatliogl
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Jonathan Rea relishing 'underdog' tag in bid to reclaim title from Toprak Razgatlioglu

Northern Ireland's Jonathan Rea says he looks forward to being the "underdog" and will leave "no stone unturned" in his bid to reclaim the World Superbike title from Toprak Razgatlioglu in 2022.

Six-time champion Rea finished second to the Turkish rider this year after a gripping two-way battle for the crown.

But the County Antrim rider insists he is motivated to limit Razgatlioglu's reign to just 12 months.

"I've never found a rival like Toprak and Yamaha right now," said Rea, 34.

"They're in a very good level, very consistent, so I'm looking forward to being the underdog if you like, to step up.

"I think that position suits me a lot better, being the hunter than the hunted."

The battle for supremacy in 2021 went down to the wire with 25-year-old Razgatlioglu capturing his maiden title despite a gallant effort from Rea, who rounded off his year with a double success at the season-ending race at the Mandalika International Street Circuit in Indonesia.

With Rea having won six successive titles between 2015 and 2020, the Kawasaki rider now steps into unknown territory as he tries to regain his place at the top, but he believes his position as the chaser will suit him in his quest to add a record-extending seventh title to his cabinet in 2022.

"Now the chips are down," added Rea, who was speaking to BBC Sport Northern Ireland after being appointed an OBE in the Queen's New Year Honours.

"Toprak has a lot of background noise, a lot of shoulder pats, everyone knows he's the real deal, so to try to step up is very motivating, to try and win again.

"I know what that feeling's like and now I miss it quite a lot, so I'm going to throw the kitchen sink at it next season, leaving no stone unturned in my preparation and that's already started.

"I'm excited to see what 2022 holds, to remain healthy, injury-free and enjoy my racing. I'm sure if I can do that and give 100%, we'll be there fighting right to the end."

Rea says his rivalry with Razgatlioglu being likened to that of Colin Edwards and Troy Bayliss is the 'coolest thing'

The burgeoning rivalry between Rea and Razgatlioglu has set the stage for a hugely intriguing 2022 season, which gets under way in April.

And the Northern Irishman believes their battles will get "even better" next year as they look to consolidate their position as the two dominant World Superbike protagonists.

"That's probably the coolest thing [the rivalry] because everyone's talking about how this rivalry's been the best since 2002 with [Troy] Bayliss and Colin Edwards.

"I fondly remember as a kid watching that rivalry. I was a teenager and I hung on to that, they were two icons of the sport.

"If people are excited about Superbikes now because of that battle, I think it's going to get even better next year.

"There's going to be even more guys in the mix as well so long may that continue, it's good for the sport. From the outside I could see that the show was spectacular this year and it was cool being a part of the races as well because they were close, aggressive and fair.

"More of the same in 2022 but hopefully we can flip the outcome at the end."

Rea proud to follow in Dunlop's footsteps

Rea was appointed an OBE in the Queen's New Year Honours to add to the MBE he received in 2017, describing the latest recognition as a "landmark moment" in his life.

He added that it was "humbling" to follow in the footsteps of legendary Northern Irish motorcycle racer Joey Dunlop, who was appointed an MBE in 1986 before being awarded an OBE 10 years later for his charitable work delivering aid to Eastern Europe.

"I'm incredibly proud," said Rea. "It's a cool moment for me and my family, and motorcycling in general.

"To be recognised outside your sport is always much better than inside your sport because it's a wider audience.

"It's so humbling as well, my hero Joey Dunlop had an MBE and OBE as well so it's a nice story and I'm really looking forward to going to accept my award.

"I've got the scroll of MBE in my house, sitting pride of place, and the badge as well, it's amazing.

"It's a landmark moment, not just in my career, but my life, it makes me extremely proud to fly the flag for motorcycling and Northern Ireland, it gives us some highlight over what has been a very tough couple of years for everybody."

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01-01-2022, 01:56 PM
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