Jonathan Rea just taking it race at a time to the title
Jonathan Rea says he is taking 'one race at a time' but the Ballyclare lad could potentially be crowned World Superbike Champion this Sunday in Malaysia, making him the first rider from these shores to do so in the 28- year history of the SBK series.
The 28-year-old, who is based in the Isle of Man, currently leads the global series by 125 points from his factory Kawasaki Racing team-mate Tom Sykes and, with just six races remaining after Malaysia, should Rea leave the Sepang Circuit 151 points to the good, he will join the late great Joey Dunlop, Brian Reid and Ralf Bryans as a Northern Ireland-born world champion.
Speaking ahead of the 10th round of the series, which will see the World Superbike series go into a summer break before concluding at Jerez, Magny Cours and Losail in Qatar, during September and October, Rea (pictured) said: "I always enjoy the flyaway rounds, and although I expect it to be really hot, with the possibility of thunderstorms we have to be ready to react to the weather conditions in Malaysia.
"I've studied the Sepang races from last year where I struggled a little bit on the Honda, but it seems that the Kawasaki was quite a strong package. While we had a good pace at Laguna Seca, I was not entirely comfortable," was Rea's honest summing up of his last outing in America.
Not wanting to get drawn on the championship-winning questions, the factory Kawasaki rider said: "I try to take every day as it comes and don't look back. I always believed in my potential and knew one day I could fight for the championship, but the focus is to have a strong weekend at Sepang before we start the long summer break."
The World Superbike Championship took over from the Formula 1 TT series, which was won five consecutive times by the legendary Joey Dunlop, between 1982 and 1986. Brian Reid was also a Formula TT World champion in the F2 class in 1985 and 1986, and said that Jonathan will be a worthy member of the illustrious club.
"I'm the only surviving world motorcycle champion from Northern Ireland and it will be great to have Jonathan join myself, Joey and Ralf as a world champion, as he will be a great ambassador for our country" confided Reid, who was also a five-time Isle of Man TT winner during his 18-year career.
Having raced with Rea's father, Johnny Rea Senior, himself a TT winner, Reid added: "It's a dream for any racer to become world champion, and I'm sure Jonathan will be no different. It's something that no one can ever take away from you.
"I remember speaking to Linda Pelham, who was his boss at the time in the Red Bull Rookies class when he started tarmac racing, and she told me he wasn't just a level above everyone else with his riding ability. His personality and PR skills - even from an early age - set him apart. Let's hope he does it this weekend in Malaysia. It will be absolutely brilliant," said Reid.
Should the Ulsterman not quite close out the championship this weekend - which, in fairness, is a big ask, as Sykes is also in blistering form - he will surely be crowned 2015 World Superbike Champion on September 20 at Jerez in Spain.
Going into this weekend's event at the 5.548km circuit just outside Kuala Lumpur, Rea has won 11 of the 18 World Superbike races so far this season, with his lowest finish to date the two third-places last time out in America.
He has already re-written the record books for most podiums in a season, and with eight races remaining, Doug Polen's all-time record of 17 wins in a championship year is still within the Northern Irishman's grasp.
Closing out the world title will ultimately be the first thing on his mind, and if you haven't already done so, get those flights booked for Jerez on the third weekend in September. I'm sure Johnny Rea Senior is already planning the unofficial championship winning party. It's sure to be memorable.