I've made my grandad's World title dream come true, says Jonathan Rea
History-making three times World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea returned home to a hero's welcome last night, describing his feat as a dream come true.
And Rea (30) revealed he had been told at an early age by his late grandfather John, that he would one day be a world motorcycle racing world champion.
Rea clinched a third successive title for Kawasaki, the first rider to win three in a row, with his 50th series victory at Magny-Cours in France on Saturday. A crash involving Rea and his fellow countryman Eugene Laverty ended his second race of the weekend early.
Both riders were injured and Isle of Man based Rea immediately flew back to George Best Belfast City airport to be met by crowds of excited fans and well wishers.
Next stop is an open house homecoming party in his home town, Ballyclare, tonight followed by a visit to Windsor Park to see his Northern Ireland football heroes take on World champions Germany in a vital World Cup qualifying game on Thursday.
"It's incredible, I'm in a bubble," Rea said.
"It was once a dream of mine to win a World championship and my grandfather John, who died before I really had time to get to know him, told me, some day you will win a world championship.
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"Now I've won three in a row, it really is the stuff of dreams. It hasn't really sunk in yet and probably won't until I get to the FIM Conference where all the winners from MotoGP, Motocross Trials and all branches of the sport gather to be recognised and presented with their medals. That's a humbling moment to be amongst all those great riders."
Rea continued: "I've come home to simply say thanks to all my local fans, who have supported me through thick and thin and I know how much they love their motorcycle racing in this wee country - we really do punch above our weight."
As to the future, Rea added: "I'm sure the opposition will up their game to try and beat me, but meanwhile I'll just savour the moment and see out the rest of the season. There are still four races left and I will be trying for the best results possible. Kawasaki will not be sitting on their laurels.
"There are some changes coming in the pipeline for next year. The Kawasaki project manager was at Magny-Cours and for sure we believe that performance will be restricted, so we are already testing ahead of 2018 and 2019. Can I win a fourth title? I don't see why not."
The motivation is still very evident with Rea - even having just clinched his third world championship he will keep the throttle pinned: "My motivation is winning and you know I have never won a race at Jerez, where we race next. That keeps me motivated and is still a box I have to tick. If I can tick all the boxes at the end of the season everything will have been worthwhile for me, my team and my family, we are all one big team and I know Kawasaki is still a strong Superbike supporter."
Out of 21 races this season which began at Phillip Island, Australia back in February the 30-year-old has won 12 races and had 20 podiums to put himself in an unassailable lead of the championship with two rounds at Jerez in Spain and Losail in Qatar still to go.