Jonathan Rea eyes long reign as king of the world after lifting World Superbike title
Northern Ireland's Jonathan Rea, who was crowned 2015 World Superbike champion on Sunday in Spain, is already looking ahead to next season and defending his title with the Kawasaki Racing Team.
And the 28-year-old is still on a high since becoming the country's first motorcycling World champion since Joey Dunlop and Brian Reid in 1986 after clinching the crown with fourth place in the first race in Jerez.
He said: "I have one more year on my contract with Kawasaki in World Superbike and I'm really enjoying my life in the Superbike class, so the plan is to continue here.
"Winning the World championship is the most difficult thing I have done and defending it will be even more difficult. But I'm really excited.
"At the start of October we will launch the new bike in Barcelona.
"I'm proud to be part of this new project with Kawasaki. It gives me added motivation for this winter as we want to make the bike even better."Making of champion Jonathan Rea: How A* pupil with racing in his blood conquered the world
Rea, who had an opportunity in the MotoGP paddock back in 2012, standing in for the injured Casey Stoner at Repsol Honda, says he doesn't quite understand the Grand Prix paddock.
The down to earth Ballyclare lad believes the opportunity of a Grand Prix ride has now passed him by at 28, but holds no bitterness over certain political decisions that overlooked him in favour of other British riders.
"I love bikes and I love racing, and for sure people are happy to race there, but if you look at most of the faces in MotoGP, everyone is so serious and they don't seem to be enjoying it," explained Rea.
"MotoGP is the pinnacle of racing, but the fans don't have the chance to see the riders.
"My philosophy is to enjoy my racing.
"I have been in the Superbike paddock for quite a few years now and I'm relaxed.
"The World Superbike paddock is full of kids and families.
"I like to have my wife and son with me, otherwise racing can be a very lonely sport.
"If you do it by yourself, it involves a lot of lonely hotel rooms and living out of a suitcase."Sporting superstars are the pride of Northern Ireland
It's been a tremendous season for Rea since the move to Kawasaki, but he was candid enough to admit that joining 2013 WSB champion Tom Sykes at KRT was a huge gamble, and with it came a lot of pressure.
"Sykes was clearly the number one rider when I joined Kawasaki," said Rea, whose rivalry with the Yorkshire man has been fiercely intense at times this season. Reflecting on his decision to move away from Honda, he added: "I had a lot of pressure on my shoulders coming to Kawasaki.
"In the beginning when I first came in, I felt like the number two rider in the team.
"Also, from the management side, I felt like I was the back-up plan.
"I always believed in my ability to do a good job, and race after race with the results we were posting, it levelled out the playing field.
"I could show my potential and I started to feel more comfortable."
The fourth place in race one at Jerez, which clinched this year's championship for Rea, was the first time he has been off the podium all season.
Race two produced a similar result, so there was no fairytale finish, but he got the job done, like the true professional he has become.
"After qualifying, I expected to win the race, but the bike felt very different," he explained.
"I set a new lap record on the second lap, but then I developed a problem with the front tyre of the bike.
"I had many warnings, but I was only thinking of the championship, telling myself time and time again, 'just be smart'. I just kept repeating it.
"We didn't change anything for race two and indeed I encountered the same problem, but we got the job done and that's all that matters."
Rea finished behind England's Sykes, Welshman Chaz Davies and Michael van der Mark of Holland in the opening race.