Development & Alumni Relations Office 

QUEEN’S HONORARY GRADUATE JONATHAN REA WINS SIXTH WORLD SUPERBIKE CHAMPIONSHIP  Jonathan Rea in bright honorary graduate robes holding glass of champagne in cloisters

22 October 2020

Congratulations to motorcyclist Jonathan Rea MBE, winner of the BBC Northern Ireland Sports Personality of The Year title in 2017 and 2019, who has picked up his sixth successive Superbike World Championship, making him one of the most successful World SBK riders in the history of the championship.

The Kawasaki rider originally from County Antrim, who received an honorary Doctorate of the University (DUniv) from Queen’s during Winter Graduation Week in December 2019, secured the title with a fourth-place finish in the opening race at Estoril on the Portuguese Riviera, outside of Lisbon on 16 October.  

While he holds the record for championship wins, race victories and career points, he’ll have to wait until next season for his 100th race win to secure his place as the most successful rider in the history of the series, after the season was reduced to eight rounds instead of the usual 14 due to the Covid pandemic.

Commenting on Jonathan’s unprecedented sixth title, BBC NI Sports Broadcaster Stephen Watson, BA Politics (1993), said:

“It’s been a pleasure watching Jonathan Rea’s remarkable record breaking, history making achievements continue in 2020,” said Stephen.

“Once again this year the Ballyclare biker has been unstoppable in the World Superbike Championship, cementing his place as the greatest rider ever to race in the series by winning a sixth world championship in a row.

“When Jonathan told me during at television interview he wanted to put the Rea name, and Northern Ireland, on the map he really meant it. He was 8 years old. 25 years later he has fulfilled his dream by smashing every record in the sport,” he added.

Delivering the citation at his honorary degree ceremony in 2019, Head of Queen’s Sport, Liz McLaughlin said:

“Jonathan Rea’s life may sound like an effortless story, but don’t be misled. It has involved grit and determination, and it certainly has not been pain free.

“His autobiography is called Dream, Believe. Achieve and he certainly epitomises all three of those. 

“Jonathan deserves his place among our greatest sporting heroes of modern times – Carl Frampton, Rory McIlroy and Tony McCoy. He is proud of the place he came from, a wonderful ambassador for Northern Ireland and an inspiration for young people everywhere to get involved in sport, whatever it may be.”

Born into a motorcycle-racing family, Jonathan’s father, Johnny, competed at the Isle of Man TT and his grandfather, also called John, sponsored that other legendary Northern Ireland motorcyclist Joey Dunlop. Jonathan has been riding since he was two and racing since he was six. 

Appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2017 Birthday Honours for services to motorcycle racing he was runner-up to Sir Mo Farah at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards in the same year, being the first motorcyclist to be shortlisted in a decade. He also received the Freedom of the Borough of Antrim and Newtownabbey and, in November 2019, was honoured with a prestigious FIM award in Monaco.

Though he competes all over the world, Jonathan Rea resides in Templepatrick, County Antrim with his wife Tatia - originally from Australia and better known as Tarsh - whom he met when she worked promoting superbike team Honda Racing. The couple were married in 2012 and have two sons Jake and Tyler.

Widely respected in the motorbike community, and indeed throughout the wider sporting world, Jonathan Rea is, in the real sense of the word, a gentleman. Summing up on behalf of all who have had the pleasure of meeting or working with Northern Ireland's latest world champion, Stephen Watson concluded:

“Not only is Jonathan a supremely talented motorcyclist he’s also very a very down to earth, humble sportsman who is a tremendous ambassador for the country.

“During this very strange year impacted by covid-19 he’s ‪given us all something to smile about.”‪

Queen's awards honorary degrees to individuals who have achieved high distinction or given significant service in one or more fields of public or professional life, and who serve as ambassadors for the University and Northern Ireland around the world.

For general enquiries about this story, or to submit a graduate news item, please contact Gerry Power, Communications Officer, Development and Alumni Relations Office, Queen’s University Belfast.

Headline image: Jonathan Rea at Test MotoGP Aragón 2012 (Wikipedia)

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