Belfast Telegraph

Jonathan Rea is now in history books with legendary family friend Joey Dunlop

Flying flag: Jonathan Rea celebrates with fans after clinching his fifth consecutive World Superbike crown
Flying flag: Jonathan Rea celebrates with fans after clinching his fifth consecutive World Superbike crown

By Roy Harris

Jonathan Rea and Kawasaki have continued their dominance of the World Superbike Championship despite the series organisers' campaign to rein him in by changing the format to three races per weekend and Ducati bringing in the all-new Panigale and Alvaro Bautista.

Of course, Rea - who has an MBE - is not the only Ulster rider to win five successive World Championships, as Joey Dunlop MBE OBE clinched the F1 series between 1982-1986.

The Rea/Dunlop connection goes back to the mid-1970s when Jonathan's grandfather John began sponsoring Joey, a combination that gained legendary status, with the Rea Racing Yamahas taking Dunlop to his first two Isle of Man TT victories, the 1977 Jubilee Classic and the 1980 Classic.

John died in 1993 when Jonathan was six, but he recalls his grandfather telling him: "Someday you will be a world champion." Sadly, he didn't live to see those words prove true, five times over.

Rea was always around bikes, as his father Johnny won the Junior TT in 1989 riding a Rea Racing 250cc Yamaha and continued racing into the 1990s before Jonathan took his first steps into youth motocross.

F1 morphed into World Superbikes, with Saturday's opening race at Magny-Cours the 800th since the first at Donington Park in 1988 when Dunlop finished in third. Rea finished second in the anniversary race.

Dunlop broke records, amassing 26 TT wins (still unbeaten) and 48 victories around Dundrod (24 at both the UGP and Killinchy 150) to name but two.

Likewise, Rea has a record 83 WSBK wins and, since joining Kawasaki in 2015, has stood on the podium 117 times, a record 87% for a full-time rider with one manufacturer.

Dunlop was Irish Motorcyclist of the Year a record eight times and Rea has scooped the Joey Dunlop Trophy for Irish Motorcyclist of the Year six times.

Rea has previously said: "Joey was a hero of mine. I am amazed to be mentioned in the same breath as Joey Dunlop."

Both are now enshrined in motorcycling history, and in Rea's case, more may be to come.

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