How future world champion was advised to change his style... and the rest is history
Having charted the meteoric career of three-time World champion Jonathan Rea, I could not be more delighted by his latest exploits.
Little did I or anyone else think we were looking at a future history making world champion on a wet day at Desertmartin motocross track over 20 years ago when this little fella took to the track on a 50cc Millar Yamaha (Joe Millar a sponsor of his father Johnny).
I next came across Jonathan at a tarmac racing school at Nutts Corner. Jonathan was out on a 125cc Honda and I remember one of the 'tutors 'on the day - Woolsey Coulter - telling him that he would have to get rid of his motocross style of sitting on the machine if he was to be a successful short circuit rider.
From those early days to Magny-Cours on Saturday has been an incredible journey for Jonathan and I know of no one who would begrudge him this success - he certainly earned his three titles, putting behind him some nasty injuries along the way to stand head and shoulders above any WSB competitors of his generation.
The whole way through his career Jonathan has been a gentleman, a sponsor's dream and a man who has not forgotten his fans and supporters here at home.
It was 2003 when he came back to Bishopscourt for the Hillsborough Club end of season meeting and won both 125cc races on his Red Bull Honda, returning in 2007, this time on a Red Bull Superbike (with a little help from team boss Paul Bird) to win the prestigious Sunflower Trophy race.
Between his commitments, Jonathan could be found in paddocks supporting his brother Richard when he was racing and running his JR 65 motocross team in local and British championships
Jonathan has been a terrific ambassador for Northern Ireland on his travels around the world and I can see another treble on the horizon as he could well be the people's choice as Cornmarket Irish Motorcyclist of the Year in association with Enkalon come January and lift that iconic Joey Dunlop Trophy.
In fact I would go further and say that in my opinion, there has been no better performance from any local sportsman or women from this province in 2017 than Jonathan Rea's.
He took on the best in the world and has been the dominant rider of the last three years. Yes, some may argue he had the best bike, but he still had to ride it to its limits just as Fogarty, Corser, Edwards or Bayliss and others had to do when they became champions.