All-conquering World Superbike king Jonathan Rea is now out on his own as the most successful rider ever in the history of the championship.
Rea overcame the biggest challenge of his glittering career to win an all-time record fifth consecutive title in 2019.
His title triumph on Sunday at Magny-Cours in France is all the sweeter after many wrote off the Northern Ireland rider’s prospects following a sensational start to the season by series debutant Alvaro Bautista of Spain.
The 2006 125cc world champion crossed over from the premier MotoGP class to ride Ducati’s new V4-R Panigale and swept all before him as he won the first 11 races in a row.
Before the midway point of the campaign, Rea’s critics had dismissed his chances of retaining the title he has made his own since he joined Kawasaki in 2015.
Some even suggested Bautista’s dominant start to the championship was proof of the gulf in class between Rea – the pre-eminent force in World Superbikes – and a middle of the road MotoGP rider such as 34-year-old Bautista.
Those ill-informed voices have been emphatically silenced by Rea, who clawed his way back to the top through a combination of sheer force of will, incredible talent and a champion’s mentality.
Bautista was largely the architect of his own downfall, a series of DNFs denting his own championship aspirations, but Rea’s methodical consistency ensured he was poised to strike should he be granted an opening by the Spaniard.
He seized upon every error by the Ducati man with ruthless efficiency and once he was back on his perch, Rea never relinquished his grip as he became Ulster's second five-time motorcycling world champion along with Joey Dunlop, who famously won the TT Formula 1 World Championship from 1982-86.
The magnitude of what Rea has achieved this year cannot be underestimated, and his name will stand rightfully among the legends of Northern Ireland sport for all time.