Whyte joy as special guest Rea will ride at the NW200
Northern Ireland's three-time world Superbike champion Jonathan Rea is to ride at this year's Vauxhall International North West 200.
The announcement was made during the NW200's Meet the Riders launch event in Coleraine last night but the 31-year-old, who won his third world title in a row in 2017, won't be racing.
Rea's special guest appearance will see him ride a Kawasaki ZX10RR in parade laps during the main race day at the north coast event on May 19.
Rea, who was recently crowned Irish Motorcyclist of the Year, will be riding on the same 8.9-mile circuit where his father Johnny competed and his racing hero Joey Dunlop won 13 races during his long career.
"I'm very excited to go back and visit the North West 200 and be able to do a parade lap," Rea said.
"I was fortunate enough to ride with my dad around there more than 10 years ago.
"It's an event that I follow closely and this season my schedule allows me to visit. I always remember the atmosphere on the North coast during race week being amazing and I'm sure this year will be no different."
North West race director Mervyn Whyte told the packed auditorium in Coleraine last night: "We are thrilled and delighted to announce that Jonathan will be out on track in front of his home fans at this year's Vauxhall International North West 200.
"Jonathan has enjoyed unprecedented success in becoming a three-time World Superbike champion and it is very special to have him out on the famous Triangle circuit where so many other great names in Irish motorcycle racing history have competed."
Although probably a little relieved he won't have to compete against Rea, the news was met with strong approval from fellow racer Glenn Irwin, a NW Superbike race winner last year.
"I've been training with Jonathan in Spain recently and I saw how busy his schedule is," last year's NW200 feature Superbike race winner commented.
"To take time out shows how important it is to him to get to the North West and this will be a huge treat for his fans to have him riding around the circuit."
Carrickfergus racer Irwin headed the launch event in Coleraine which was attended by a capacity crowd of over 800 people.
A line-up of newcomers for the 2018 edition of the seaside races included Davey Todd, Jonathan Perry, Stephen Degnan, Mike Norbury, Jamie Williams and Jordon McFerran.