Jonathan Rea is the greatest of all time, says Philip McCallen
Motorcycling legend Philip McCallen has piled praise on Jonathan Rea, who wrapped up an historic fourth successive World Superbike title at Magny-Cours in France over the weekend.
McCallen, an 11-time Isle of Man TT winner - he was the first man to record four TT triumphs in a week - who took five wins in a day at both the North West 200 and Ulster Grand Prix, believes Rea has put Northern Ireland on the map.
"We all love motorcycle racing here and what Jonathan has achieved is the biggest thing in the world," he said.
"We are just a small dot on the world map and even huge countries like the USA and Australia could not do what he has done.
"Colin Edwards, Ben Spies, Troy Bayliss and Troy Corser couldn't manage four world championships in a row. It is an outstanding achievement that nobody else has done. Carl Fogarty won four, but not in a row, and was hailed as the greatest Superbike rider in history - Jonathan has taken over that mantle and rewritten the record books in the process."
Some pundits and fans have denigrated the World Superbike Championship, but that doesn't wash with McCallen.
He said: "Jonathan is up against the best Superbike racers in the world. Tom Sykes, a former world champion, Chaz Davies and Marco Melandri, a former Grand Prix racer, cannot get within 10 seconds of him. When you listen to a rider of the calibre of Davies being interviewed and predicting when Jonathan would be coming past then you know he is something special.
"Loris Baz was fighting for the world championship with Sykes, now the best he seems to manage is 10th - who would want to be Jonathan's team-mate the way he is riding?"
On Rea's Kawasaki team, McCallen added: "The package Jonathan has is complete. He made the move from Honda to Kawasaki and has not lost a championship since. A dream for the manufacturer, who probably could not believe their luck at signing him for the 2015 season."
Rea continually speaks of his family being behind him 100% and McCallen can relate to that from his racing days.
He admits: "Family is a big thing. I've been on the grid at the TT and there was never any negativity, no thoughts of getting hurt. I understand where he is coming from with that, to have that combination of team, fans, wife Tatia, sons Tyler and Jake and Kawasaki right behind him is massive and not to be underestimated."
Now he has achieved more than any other Superbike rider, what next for the 31-year old?
McCallen concludes: "He's young, fit, focused, determined, knows what he wants and has two more years with Kawasaki. Why shouldn't he win for a few years yet? He can't win every race as other competitors will have their day, like Melandri at Philip Island in the first round this year when Jonathan was recovering from a hand injury and an operation a few days before, but at the moment nobody has the consistency to match him.
"Jonathan is a decent lad, he has time for everybody despite travelling the world as a brand ambassador promoting Kawasaki. The dream is bigger even than his late grandfather John could ever have imagined when he told Jonathan he would be a world champion."
• Northern Ireland's other world champions: Ralph Bryans 1965 50cc champion, Joey Dunlop TT F1 champion in 1982, '83, '84, '85 and '86 and Brian Reid TT F2 champion in 1985 and '86.