Jonathan Rea: I'll do everything to give travelling Northern Irish fans a reason to celebrate at Donington
Four-time World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea is sure to have plenty of local and vocal support this weekend.
The eighth round of the Championship begins this morning at Donington Park with free practice, and Ulsterman Rea is right back in title contention after reducing Alvaro Bautista's lead to just 16 points after the Spaniard crashed out at the last two meetings at Jerez and Misano.
Local fans will descend on the east Midlands track anticipating more victories from the Templepatrick rider with three races this weekend under the new format this season.
And it is also a massive weekend, albeit for very different reasons, for fellow Ulsterman Eugene Laverty.
The Toomebridge man has passed a medical to compete in free practice one this morning on the Team Go Eleven Ducati after a six-week absence recovering from two broken wrists, but will be reviewed after the session.
For Rea, though, it is all about chasing down Bautista.
"After spending a week on the beach after Misano with my family, I'm ready for the next race at Donington, which is the closest thing I get to a home race," he said. "I'm excited to go there and get stuck in. It's a great circuit with a little bit of everything with the first sector one of my favourites of the season.
"It's always a compromise with set-up for the fast-flowing parts where the bike needs to be agile and then very stable for the hard-braking final section.
"The target is to keep working with my team and maximise the potential of the Ninja ZX-10RR. It will be brilliant to see loads of home fans over to support us this weekend and I'll be doing my utmost to keep them happy."
And there will be another familiar face for local fans as the world's fastest road racer Peter Hickman takes to the track.
The popular Englishman is a late replacement in the Shaun Muir Racing factory BMW Team following Markus Reiterberger's withdrawal through illness and it will be interesting to see how the international road race star copes with World Superbikes, and also how the factory BMW compares with his customary Smiths Racing version.
He certainly knows the circuit well from his BSB campaign.
British Supersport Championship leader Jack Kennedy has a wildcard in the World Supersport race on his Appleyard Integro Yamaha and, being a former podium finisher at this level, a top-six finish should not be out of the question.
Eunan McGlinchey, the British Superstock 600cc Championship leader, has secured a spot in the World Supersport 300 class thanks to Kawasaki and the French Flembbo Leader Team, with qualifying the first major hurdle. But what an experience it should be for the 21-year old from Aghadowey.
The action is live on Eurosport 2 today, tomorrow and Sunday.