Jonathan Rea: Six-time World Superbike champion reflects on social media fallout after controversy

Jonathan Rea and Toprak Razgatlioglu
Jonathan Rea and Toprak Razgatlioglu fought out a thrilling battle for the 2021 World Superbike title

Jonathan Rea has reflected on the negative impact social media reaction had on his mental wellbeing following a controversial incident during the 2021 World Superbike Championship.

Eventual champion Toprak Razgatlioglu was stripped of a win in the Superpole sprint race at Magny-Cours in France in September when on-board footage revealed he had strayed over a white line and onto the prohibited green area during the final lap.

Rea overtook his Turkish rival at the following corner but Razgatlioglu went on to snatch the race lead and victory back from Rea when he re-passed the Northern Irishman in the final stages.

After Sunday's second race had finished, the morning race result was revised with Rea declared as the winner after he and his Kawasaki team successfully protested the result and Razgatlioglu was demoted to runner-up, denying him a treble.

Images showed that Yamaha-mounted Razgatlioglu had breached track limits by skimming the green paint at Turn 10.

Razgatlioglu went on to break Rea's stranglehold on the title by securing his maiden World Superbike crown by 13 points come the end of the season.

'I wasn't in a great place'

"I could see he was on the green, it was clear, and I was fighting for points," Rea explained on The BBC Bikes Podcast.

"It's a world championship on the line, I don't train hard, make sacrifices regarding my family time and risk my life, everything, just to accept somebody taking advantage of a situation.

"My team and manufacturer don't put millions of euros a year into the sport for me to accept that.

"Dorna [the exclusive commercial and TV rights holder for WSB] threw me under the bus a bit, putting words in my mouth in a video. If that hadn't gone out it would have been ok.

"They painted me as a real villain and weren't very apologetic about it either.

"I was on my way home on my own and checked my Instagram. My mate had put up a generic race quote and there were 500 comments within an hour of the post...one was like 'you're going to die', 'we know where you live', 'you're this and you're that'. I felt terrible.

"I got sucked into reading all these terrible comments.

"I'm so lucky with my fans, I generally get 95% love and 5% hate but this time was the opposite, so I wasn't in a great place."

Social media 'such a powerful tool'

Toprak Razgatlioglu and Jonathan Rea
Toprak Razgatlioglu beat Jonathan Rea to the 2021 title by 13 points

Rea went on to explain that he had also reaped benefits from the positive outcomes social media can bring about but as a father of two children he cautioned that "our kids should be prepared" for the impact it can have.

"I don't think you can get away from it. It should almost be a subject at school, it's such a powerful tool," added the Northern Irishman.

"I can't complain about social media because I use it to my advantage. I have sponsors that are really interested in my social media side and there are financial benefits so there's a positive side to it as well as the negatives.

"If you're not in a good place it's going to be tough. I said to my media people, 'I'm not this monster these people are making me out to be'.

"Two months later I had just been pipped to a world title and there was a picture of me giving Toprak a sincere hug in Parc ferme.

"I was like, 'well done mate, I'm so happy for you, you deserve this'. I was gutted for myself but happy for him.

"The same idiots who were calling for my head, suddenly they were saying what a great sportsman I was.

"I don't feel the need to talk negatively, or even offer positive opinion, about people in a public forum.

"Being kind is important. You've seen in the celebrity world how trolling can lead to tragic consequences, suicides. You don't know what's going on inside a person's head.

"It takes energy out of you to make nasty comments and you can feel so much better about yourself if you can be nice.

"If you don't have anything nice to say, then say nothing."

'Never given a chance in MotoGP'

Jonathan Rea
Jonathan Rea in action at the 2012 MotoGP of San Marino where he replaced the injured Casey Stoner

The 35-year-old went on to explain that he had never been offered a full-time ride in MotoGP despite his remarkable run of success in World Superbikes.

"The closest conversation I had about going there was three or four years ago..I was in some talks with Aprilia to go there..it wasn't an offer though so I've never been given the chance.

"I replaced Casey Stoner for two races in the Repsol Honda team in 2012 but for me the MotoGP paddock was more business.

"The World Superbike paddock suits me better, it's an easier schedule, 13 rounds per year, so you can mix business with normality a bit more.

"The carrot was dangled for MotoGP as far back as my British Superbike days, where Honda had seen some potential. You are sold a dream.

"There's this school of thought, 'You stay in the Honda family and you make stepping stones. It's rubbish. You make your own opportunities in motorbike racing.

"Me and Honda Europe complemented each other in World Superbikes. I won races with them and was rewarded well.

"But sometimes you think you are in an incredible situation and then you move out of that and see another manufacturer or team."

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