Saturday at the North West 200 will feature a parade lap by triple WorldSBK champion Jonathan Rea - who is excited to get in front of his home fans, soak up the special atmosphere and enjoy a few beers!

With Road Racing in his blood, the North West has always been a special event for the Northern Irishman.

“It'll be special to do the parade lap,” said Rea.

“I actually did one in 2004 with my dad, but the reaction I had last year when I got home after winning the championship meant so much to me and then when this lap was announced it felt quite special to be appreciated so much.

"From a racing perspective I've always loved the North West because it's a festival. It's a great atmosphere and I've always loved hanging out with everyone and getting a few beers with everyone.

“It's just a special weekend for me and now that I spend a lot of time with Glenn Irwin I've got a real interest in the race! When I raced for Honda I always had a bond to their races - Hutchy, McGuiness and in particular Keith Amor - but now with Glenn I've got an added interest this year.”

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His father Johnny Sr retired while Rea was still a child and, while he has only a few memories of those days, the impact of them is still something he feels today.

“I always respected what my dad did. I really understand it now with my son Jake because I feel that he looks up to me so much. I was the same when I was his age.

"My dad was my hero when I was a kid and I remember pushing mechanics out of the way so that I could polish wheels or do something to help. My dad always made me feel a part of it and I could see how winning made him feel.

“I can't remember what he did in his career because I was too young, but recently Duke sent me footage of the 1989 250 TT win and he flat-out beat Hizzy and Foggy in that race. He was as good an Irish rider as anyone that didn't get the opportunity to go and race in the UK and show what he could do.

"When he didn't get the chance to race on the short circuits he went Road Racing and he was the top national racer in the late '80s and early '90s. I think he's won 13 Irish or Ulster championships, but he never had the chance to race properly outside of Ireland.”

Racing outside of Ireland has always been a challenge for young riders. The lure of the roads is something that is felt from an early age, but so is the pressure to race at events such as the North West 200.

“Honestly, I never wanted to race on the roads. I was discouraged from racing on the roads, my mum would say 'you'll never live under my roof if you race at the TT!'

"For me it wasn't on my radar but the saddest thing for me is that growing up in Ireland it's all about racing on the roads. People offer to sponsor you a bike and if you go to do the North West you could have five people offering to buy you a bike, but if you were going to Britain to race they didn't want to support you.

"I received offers to have a bike for the British series on the condition of doing the North West or some of the nationals. I had a choice in what I wanted to do, but some kids don't have that choice. I was lucky and I went straight from motocross to the British championship.”

While the WorldSBK record books have been rewritten in recent years by Rea, he's full of excitement for the biggest single day event on the Irish sporting calendar.

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