The World Superbike championship needs a “star” from MotoGP to step over to boost its fading popularity, believes Jonathan Rea.
WSBK has struggled in recent years to attract large crowds to events, despite changes to race formats and the technical regulations being made in a bid to make the series more exciting.
Meanwhile, sister series MotoGP has enjoyed a halcyon period of popularity, with many events reaching or getting close to sell-out status and television audience numbers dwarfing those of WSBK.
Numerous names from grand prix racing have stepped over to race in WSBK in recent seasons, but no frontrunning premier class stars have made the switch since Max Biaggi did in 2007.
Rea – who has dominated WSBK with Kawasaki over the last three years with three titles and a record 63 victories – believes bringing a “star” rider from MotoGP to the series would “lift the public perception” on WSBK’s talent.
“It’s a cool championship,” he remarked when asked how to improve WSBK’s popularity following a dominant weekend at Misano.
“Sometimes all the best riders aren’t always on the best bikes, and I feel like Superbikes is an amazing place to be.
“But it would be really nice to get some real star quality from MotoGP to come here. Not guys that are finishing their career or guys that have nothing left [to give].
“Them guys, they can go somewhere else because there are better riders here than at the back of the MotoGP grid.
“We need a star from GP to come here, and I think that will then lift the public perception, ‘wow, these guys are fast: [Eugene] Laverty, [Chaz] Davies, [Tom] Sykes, me’. Fast guys.”
Rea added that while having a rider like Dani Pedrosa – whose future past 2018 remains uncertain – or Andrea Iannone in the series would be a “dream” for WSBK, the production-based championship will likely always “play second-best” to MotoGP in terms of popularity.
“I talked to my team manager [about this], and it would be really nice if some guy like Pedrosa or Iannone [came to WSBK],” he said. “Or if Honda brought [Cal] Crutchlow here.
“It would be incredible, it would give Superbikes more prestige to be honest.
“There’s hundreds of things that you could do, but of course we’re always going to play second-best to MotoGP when you talk about fan interaction and prestige.
“I mean, MotoGP is the Formula 1 of the bike world and that’s how it is.”
Additional reporting by Lorenzo Moro