Jonathan Rea has Carl Fogarty’s record in sight

World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea pictured at Belfast City Airport on Sunday evening after flying into Northern Ireland following his latest title success with Kawasaki.
World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea pictured at Belfast City Airport on Sunday evening after flying into Northern Ireland following his latest title success with Kawasaki.

Three-time World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea says emulating racing great Carl Fogarty is his next natural target in 2018.

Rea is tied with Australia’s Troy Bayliss on a hat-trick of championship triumphs, only one behind ‘Blackburn Bullet’ Foggy, who lifted the title in 1995, 1996, 1998 and 1999.

The Ulster rider’s current two-year contract with Kawasaki runs until the end of next season and in February Rea will head to Phillip Island in Australia as a heavy favourite for more championship glory, such has been his dominance of the series since 2015.

The 30-year-old made history in France at the weekend after becoming the only rider ever to win the title in three successive years, but Rea’s appetite for more silverware remains undiminished.

He flew into George Best Belfast City Airport to a hero’s welcome on Sunday night straight from Magny-Cours and on Monday engaged in a series of press commitments.

Later in the evening, he attended a homecoming party in Ballyclare.

Speaking from his base at the Culloden Hotel, Rea said Fogarty’s quadruple was next in his sights.

“That’s the next number and of course my aim is to win next year, but I’m struggling to think past this year already.

“I have a one-year deal left with Kawasaki, which runs out at the end of 2018 and I have no idea what to do in the future.

“I know I’m not going to be racing forever and I’d be happy to do another two-year project, whether it would be still within Kawasaki or maybe I will have another target or challenge,” said Rea.

“But right now I am very happy at Kawasaki, they treat me really well and I really enjoy working with the engineers so I’m not thinking too much past 2018.”

Rea says the heart-warming reception he received after landing in Belfast brought the magnitude of his achievement into focus.

“To walk through Belfast City Airport and hear crowds of people shouting your name and the media scrum that has followed – first from winning in France and then here – makes me realise more what it means to people.

“I understand that it is a big deal but with my mentality as a racer, it is really hard for me to turn my brain off and enjoy the moment. We still have two rounds remaining, where I haven’t been strong in the past at Jerez and Qatar.

“I’m trying to savour the moment as much as I can.”