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Jonathan Rea has sixth straight World Superbike title in his sights

Jonathan Rea
Jonathan Rea

Jonathan Rea will embark on his quest for a sensational sixth World Superbike title next month as the 2020 championship blasts off at Phillip Island in Australia.

The Northern Ireland star will return to action later this month as winter testing resumes at Jerez in Spain and Portimao in Portugal from January 21-16.

Rea, who is the overwhelming favourite to be crowned Irish Motorcyclist of the Year once again in Belfast at the sport's annual gala awards night on January 17, will be aiming to pick up where he left off after the five-time champion topped the times in testing at Jerez at the end of November.

The Kawasaki rider, who will celebrate his 33rd birthday next month, overtook England's Carl Fogarty as the most successful World Superbike racer in history after wrapping up a fifth consecutive championship last year, but Rea's motivation to further enhance his unprecedented record remains undiminished as the new season beckons.

"To be talked about in the same breath as Carl Fogarty is beyond my wildest dreams and winning my first world title was a dream come true, so all that has come after it is a huge bonus," said Rea.

"I can look at the stats now with five titles and I'm maybe a step ahead of Carl, but for me, 'Foggy' is still the man.

"What's most special for me is winning those five titles with the same bunch of guys in the same team. It's a tough sport and you put everything into it - blood, sweat and tears. They give everything for me and one of the nicest feelings is winning a race and coming back and seeing the smiles on their faces.

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"I hope we can keep creating these moments."

Rea had to come from behind to clinch the title in 2019 after Spain's Alvaro Bautista won the first 11 races of the season on the new Ducati V4 to pile on the pressure.

The odds seemed insurmountable and Rea admits he almost began to write off his chances of retaining his title before battling his way back into contention.

"It's always a long season and in the past, I've won my previous championships from the front, but in this one, we had to come from far behind, which makes it more special because I won it in a different way," he said.

"It was really hard to believe that the chips would fall our way after being so far back and the steamroller effect that Alvaro had at the beginning of the season, winning 11 races, was mad. Not only did I get written off by everyone on the outside, I had almost written myself off.

"After Assen, it was really tough because it has been one of my best tracks and I went there and got flat-out beaten," he added.

"I had to take a long look in the mirror and work with people outside the team as well and I worked a lot on different meditation techniques and visualisation before races."

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