Reigning World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea will make a special appearance at the Vauxhall International North West 200 in May, where he will complete a parade lap around the famous Triangle venue.
The Ballyclare man, who made history last year when he became the first rider ever to win the world title during three successive seasons, will ride a Kawasaki ZX-10RR around the 8.9-mile course on Saturday, May 19.
The announcement came during the official launch of the 2018 race meeting on Wednesday night at The Vineyard in Coleraine, where a host of top names were attendance, including Alastair Seeley, Glenn Irwin, William Dunlop, James Hillier, Dean Harrison, Lee Johnston, Ian Hutchinson, Adam McLean and Michael Rutter.
Factory Kawasaki rider Rea, who is bidding to equal Carl Fogarty’s all-time World Superbike record of four world crowns in 2018, said: “I’m very excited to go back and visit the North West 200 and be able to do a parade lap.
“I was fortunate enough to ride with my Dad around there more than 10 years ago.
“It’s an event that I follow closely and this season my schedule lets me visit,” added Rea, whose father Johnny was a former leading contender at the international road race.
“I always remember the atmosphere on the North Coast during race week being amazing and I’m sure this year will be no different.
“With some of the top riders moving teams it’s all to play for through all the classes.”
The 31-year-old is currently holding third place in the championship following the opening round in February at Phillip Island in Australia, where he finished fifth and second in the two races.
British Superbike frontrunner Glenn Irwin, who won the feature Superbike race last year at the North West following an epic showdown with fellow Carrickfergus man Alastair Seeley, said Rea’s appearance at the event in May would serve as a special treat for fans.
“I’ve been training with Jonathan in Spain recently and I saw how committed he is to his sport,” he said.
“He is a Northern Ireland boy at heart and loves getting home. This will be a huge treat for Jonathan, his home fans and the rest of the riders on the grid who will really enjoy having him there.”
NW200 Event Director Mervyn Whyte said Rea’s demonstration lap would be a ‘special’ occasion as the Northern Ireland rider joins the long and distinguished list of names who have ridden on the roads around the seaside course, including one of his biking heroes – Joey Dunlop – who won 13 times at the event.
“We are thrilled and delighted to announce that Jonathan will be out on track in front of his home fans at this year’s Vauxhall International North West 200,” said Whyte.
“Jonathan has enjoyed unprecedented success in World Superbikes and it is very special to have him riding on the famous Triangle circuit where so many other great names in Irish motorcycle racing history have competed.”
Over 800 people attended the launch, where newcomers including Davey Todd, Jonathan Perry, Stephen Degnan, Mike Norbury, Jamie Williams, Jordon McFerran joined the list of established names in attendance.
Opening practice takes place on Tuesday, May 15, with final practice and the opening races on Thursday, May 17. The main race bill, featuring both Superbike events, will be held on Saturday, May 19.
Meanwhile, the official launch of the Isle of Man TT will be held next Wednesday at the Villa Marina in Douglas.