Jonathan Rea all revved up to seal World Superbike crown in style
Barring a huge upset, Ballyclare's Jonathan Rea will be crowned World Superbike champion this Sunday in Spain - giving Northern Ireland its first global motorcycling champion since 1986.
Back then it was the late, great Joey Dunlop who was winning the last of his five TT Formula 1 World titles, with Brian Reid taking his second consecutive TT Formula 2 World trophy that very same year.
It's quite ironic that the birth of World Superbike in 1988 signified the final hurrah for the Formula TT World Championship, with 28-year-old factory Kawasaki-mounted Rea now needing just six points to be crowned the first-ever WSB champion from these shores.
It's been a fairytale first season for the Isle of Man-based Ulsterman, who for so many years showed massive potential, but was ultimately missing a final key ingredient - a championship-winning package.
Since his switch from Honda to Kawasaki this year, he's stood on all 20 World Superbike race podiums, taking 12 wins, two pole positions and eight fastest laps.
Rea was close to winning the title last time out in Sepang in early August before the start of a long summer break, but is now fully focused on completing the job this weekend at Jerez.Partner of bike ace Thompson who lost arm in North West 200 crash tells of fears
"It has been nice having the luxury of a summer break, but after two weeks I just wanted to get going again," he said.
"Especially after the momentum we have had throughout the season and falling just so short of actually winning the championship in Sepang."
Rea has spent the time motocrossing in his adopted home on the Isle of Man, as well as cycling in Italy with friend and former double World Supersport champion Andrew Pitt.
Last week he concluded his summer break with some much needed family time in Portugal with wife Tatia and son Jake, but Rea is itching to get back onboard his ZX-10R Kawasaki in tomorrow's opening sessions.
"It is a bit of a shame that we've had to wait seven weeks to get back on the bike but it has been nice to hang out at home, be with my family and ride my KX450F motocross bike quite a lot," he explained.
"We had a good winter test at Jerez. I felt really good straight away with the Ninja ZX-10R in the January sessions and we have further improved the bike and have been able to take the package pretty much everywhere this year to be competitive."
Despite only needing six points to be crowned champion, Rea will be looking to continue his rich vein of uninterrupted podium visits on Sunday in Spain, and no doubt will have one eye on a few more records.
Having already recorded 12 wins this year, Rea is only five short of equalling American Doug Polen's all-time record of 17, which has stood the test of time since 1991.
His 20 podiums thus far is already a new World Superbike record, four more than his team-mate Tom Sykes achieved in 2014.
Unashamedly looking ahead with nothing but unbridled confidence, Rea added: "With all the guys in the team, we have worked so hard for this moment together, so we will do our very best throughout Friday and Saturday to give us a package that we can fight for race wins with on Sunday."