Newly-crowned five-time World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea has had little time to bask in the glow of his latest triumph as the Ulster rider returns to the saddle in Argentina this weekend.
Rea surpassed Carl Fogarty as the most successful rider in the history of the championship when he clinched a fifth successive crown at Magny-Cours in France only ten days ago.
After his homecoming celebration last Wednesday at Belfast International Airport, the 32-year-old shunned the media spotlight to spend some quality time with his family.
Rea, though, is now back in race mode as he bids to round off another momentous season by adding to his tally of 12 victories so far in 2019.
He cemented his place as a World Superbike legend long ago, but despite his unprecedented success, Rea remains highly motivated and believes he still has plenty more to come in 2020.
He told the News Letter: “I don’t feel old yet, I still feel that I can achieve a lot in the sport and I’m certainly not thinking about not winning next year.
“I’m 100 per-cent focused on winning in 2020 as well and let’s just see how the winter tests go because we need to try and improve our bike a little bit, and if we can do that then we should be in the ballpark.
“I’m actually sat in Belfast City airport now waiting on my flight to London and then on to Buenos Aires, so I’m looking forward to getting back to racing and back into that bubble again to enjoy what we’ve achieved, because at the weekend I switched all the emotion off and focused on Tarsh and the kids.”
Rea remains contracted to Kawasaki for another year in 2020, when he will be bidding for an incredible sixth world crown in a row.
Winning has become the norm for the former schoolboy motocross prospect, but Rea’s desire to stay at the top never wanes and refuses to take anything for granted.
His chief rival this season, Alvaro Bautista, will head up a new HRC-backed factory effort for Honda next year, while BSB title favourite Scott Redding will join Chaz Davies in the official Ducati team.
The ever-improving Toprak Razgatlioglu – a double winner at Magny-Cours – has switched manufacturer from Kawasaki to Yamaha, but Rea is ready to meet any new challenges head-on.
“I always draw on different motivations and every year it’s something different. This year it was just to try and keep winning and that will be the aim next year,” he said.
“This year I stepped up my preparations and I worked with a guy called Jonny Davis from home, who used to look after the performance programme at Ulster Rugby.
“To have his level of input to increase my capabilities as an athlete really helped and having a structured programme throughout the year to keep motivated was really good.
“Whenever I would get home from racing I wasn’t just thinking about the next race, I was thinking about how I could improve as well and we worked on that, so that’s something I’ll continue to work on now.”
After deciding to skip the raft of media opportunities with the Northern Ireland media that have become an annual factor of his title triumphs each autumn, “locking myself away in the house to spend time with my family instead,” Rea says there has almost been a sense of anti-climax following title number five, particularly considering no one really expected to finish the job so soon in France.
“I’m not really sure if it has sunk in yet and what’s happening right now is a bit weird because I feel a bit flat,” he said.
“I had the homecoming when I arrived at the airport, which was mental. After a few days being away on my brother’s stag party straight after the championship, I came home and pretty much locked myself in the house for the next few days and did Daddy things and stuff around the house.
“I was just trying to get back to some normality and I think it’s a strange feeling this time because I really went to Magny-Cours with no inkling that I’d win, no expectations or preparation, so when it did happen it was massive because it was a surprise; but it was also weird because I hadn’t braced myself for the feeling of winning the title.
“I could’ve been as busy as I wanted to be on the PR and marketing trail when I got back, but I just wanted to go home and play Dad and be normal for a few days,” Rea said.
“My family are my home team if you like and they sacrifice so much for me to be in this position. I did the school run and my little boy’s sixth birthday was on the Friday when I was competing in free practice at Magny-Cours, so we had a belated little football-themed party for him at the weekend with all his mates.
“Now it’s about getting to Argentina, enjoying things with my team and doing a good end to the season because it will be a challenge to keep winning races.”