Jonathan Rea out to retain World Superbike Championship title in style
Ballyclare's Jonathan Rea is aiming to retain his World Superbike Championship crown in emphatic fashion this Saturday - with a race one victory in Qatar now the Ulsterman's only focus.
The factory Kawasaki rider, who leads the Championship by 48 points with just two races remaining this weekend, exclusively told the Belfast Telegraph from his hotel room in Doha's Ritz-Carlton: "I want to end the season as a race winner and put in a Championship performance in Qatar."
The 29-year-old, who having won nine races to date this season intends to tip that figure into double figures under the Losail floodlights at the unique end of season night races, continued: "Last year I felt really let down when I finished fourth in the race and only made it into Parc Fermé as the Championship winner. I felt like a bit of an add-on to be honest, so I really want to lift the title this year as a race winner.
"I've won nine races this season so far and Chaz (Davies) has also won nine, so I'd like to finish the season stronger with more wins and put in a Championship performance.
"Obviously there will be more of an emphasis on race one on Saturday, as I want to win that and clinch the Championship then have a late night with room service and savour it with my family.
"Race two on Sunday will probably just happen after that."
Rea, who certainly won't show any complacency despite needing only two points to become a double World Superbike champion, clinched the title last year during the penultimate round at Jerez, but couldn't quite achieve that feat this time around.
But proud of his roots, the Isle of Man-based star was keen to pay tribute to his local fans.
"There were so many people from back home who came to Jerez this year again. If they weren't in Kawasaki shirts, they were in Northern Ireland football jerseys or draped the Northern Ireland flag around them. It really is fantastic for me to have that sort of support from home," he said somewhat humbled.
Rea's grandfather John Rea - sponsor to the late, great Joey Dunlop and many other leading road racing stars in the 1970s and '80s - was convinced his grandson would one day be World champion.
It's just a pity that the man who took Dunlop to his first Isle of Man TT victory back in 1977 is not around to join in the current celebrations. Jonathan was just six years old and embarking on his junior motocross career when his grandfather passed away, but what a journey it has been since then for Rea and his family.
Looking back, Rea said: "I was winning British Junior Motocross races when I was 10 or 11, so I got a taste of winning early on in my racing career. The satisfaction of winning doesn't last very long, but it's infectious and the more you get it, the more you want it."
When Rea does finally collect that small handful of points he needs to secure his second World Superbike title on Saturday, the only question that will remain will be how many Championships can the talented Ulsterman go on to win?