History-maker Jonathan Rea says Sunday night’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year is a fitting occasion to cap a landmark season in the Ulster rider’s incredible career.
Rea won the World Superbike title for a record third consecutive year and is now closing in on Carl Fogarty’s all-time benchmark of four championship crowns.
The 30-year-old has dominated the series since he moved to Kawasaki in 2015 and this year he broke American Colin Edwards’ 15-year-old points record en-route to title number three, winning 16 races to amass 556 points.
Rea will have to spring a significant shock to be crowned BBC Sports Personality of the Year at the Echo Arena in Liverpool, when boxing star Anthony Joshua and Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton are among the favourites for the illustrious recognition.
However, the Ballyclare man will have the full support of Northern Ireland behind him and Rea could outshine his 33-1 odds as motorcycling makes a rare foray onto the SPOTY stage.
Double World Superbike champion James Toseland was the last motorcycling nominee in 2007, finishing fourth overall, while the great Barry Sheene was third in the wake of his second 500cc GP title back in 1977.
Rea has deservedly earned his place on the shortlist and admits his first nomination for the event is the ‘icing on the cake’ of an exceptional season.
“It’s super nice and it’s the icing on the cake of an incredible year for me. I’ve been to plenty of motorsport awards and events, but never something mainstream like this outside the sport on a national level,” Rea told the News Letter.
“To be going to the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards and to be in the same room as amazing sportsmen and women, it’s going to be a really nice night. My wife’s going and some of my family as well, so it’s going to be an incredible night.
“I will enjoy it no matter what because I’ve got good people around me and we’ll all have fun.”
Rea has been busier than ever since the season concluded in Qatar in early November, fulfilling countless media and sponsor commitments not to mention taking time out from winter testing to attend Buckingham Palace, where he received the MBE from Prince William.
He allowed himself some respite from his intense training schedule last month and although Rea will enjoy some downtime with his family over Christmas, he is back in full training mode with testing on the horizon in January followed swiftly by the first round of the 2018 championship at Phillip Island in Australia in February.
“I’m not much of a party guy or a drinker, but I sort of let my hair down a bit in November because my training goes out the window and my diet kind of gets let down a bit, but at this time of the year I’m back in full training again and focusing on 2018,” he said.
“Whilst it’s a nice time of the year to relax and enjoy turkey, I’m focused on 2018 because it comes around really early in February, so it’s important to be ready for that and to try and step up because everybody else wants that number one plate, so I want to try and be even stronger.”
The awards show will be live on BBC One Northern Ireland from 6.45pm. To vote for Jonathan online, visit the official SPOTY website at www.bbc.co.uk/spoty.
Voting will only take place during the programme. Viewers will also be able to vote by phone during the show.