BRITAIN voted him as one of its top sportspeople last year, but three-time World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea calls Australia home.
During the summer, at least.
The three-time Superbike World Champion begins the pursuit of his fourth this weekend at Phillip Island, an event Rea now considers his ‘home race’.
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“Honestly, Phillip Island … it’s one of those places where you cross that bridge from San Remo onto the island,” Rea said. “You know, I get goose bumps — I just love racing there.
“I consider Melbourne, for me, a second home. It’s a super cool city to come back to.”
But it’s more than an affinity with the island — Rea’s wife Tatia hails from Phillip Island, and they’ve regularly spent summers here in recent years.
This year’s was a little different: the couple now have a home to call their own on the island.
“We’ve just built a house actually on Phillip Island here, we moved in the end of last year,” he told FOX SPORTS in an interview that will go to air during our coverage of this weekend’s Superbike World Championship round.
“I spend a bit of time between there, Melbourne, and also up in Bright, in the Victorian Alpine district.
“I love it here. The people are like … I have so much family here and friends, and the people here are pretty cool. Like back home, everybody’s pretty easygoing. I’ve got a great bunch of cycling guys that I hang out with.
“The Aussie lifestyle suits me down to the ground.
“It was nice to come back here to Australia with my wife in December to recharge my batteries and get ready for the season.”
2017 was the biggest year of Rea’s career yet.
Along with claiming 16 out of 26 race wins amid his romp to his third-straight world title, Rea received an MBE for his on-track achievements and finished a close runner-up in the BBC’s annual Sports Personality Of the Year award, pipped by legendary distance runner Mo Farah but beating out F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton.
He finished the year off by again outpacing the exotic MotoGP bikes in testing in Spain aboard his Superbike-spec Kawasaki — a machine not too far removed from the road-going sports bike you can buy from the showroom floor.
Rea heads into the season as the favourite to win the 2018 championship despite rule changes aimed at blunting Kawasaki’s dominance of recent years.