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Quartet battle it out for Race of Year at Belfast awards

By Roy Harris

Published 22/01/2016

Close call: Glenn Irwin (Gearlink Kawasaki), Alastair Seeley (Tyco Suzuki) and Lee Johnston (East Coast Construction Triumph) battle during the Bet McClean Sportsport Race
Close call: Glenn Irwin (Gearlink Kawasaki), Alastair Seeley (Tyco Suzuki) and Lee Johnston (East Coast Construction Triumph) battle during the Bet McClean Sportsport Race

Four thrilling races have been shortlisted for the A. McLean Bookmakers Race of the Year crown at the Cornmarket Motorbike Awards, with the winner to be named next week at the sold-out Ramada Plaza Hotel, Belfast.

The judging panel, chaired by former British 250cc champion Adrian Coates, faced a challenging task to whittle the nominations down to four of the season's most enthralling tussles.

In the end, two races from the British Championship series and one each from the North West 200 and Ulster Grand Prix were selected.

Alastair Seeley won two of the races concerned, firstly taking the chequered flag in the second Supersport race at the North West 200 after a breath-taking slipstreaming battle with newcomer Glenn Irwin and Lee Johnston.

It was eventually decided at the final McLean chicane. Seeley came out in front with all three riders seeking the same piece of tarmac, with Irwin forced to go through the gravel and Johnston taking the slip road.

The second race nominated won by Seeley came in the British Superstock Championship where the 36-year-old from Carrickfergus went head-to-head with Ballinamallard 21-year old Josh Elliott for most of the season.

The most memorable of their encounters came in a summer duel at Brands Hatch GP circuit. The pair were well clear of the rest of the strong field with the lead changing between the two local riders numerous times as they battled for victory.

Wheel-to-wheel, elbow-to-elbow action, it was finally decided at the final bend of the last lap when Elliott attempted an ambitious move on the inside of Seeley that resulted in him crashing into the Clearways sand pit uninjured - his only mistake of his championship winning season.

The nominated Ulster Grand Prix Superstock race saw two of the new breed of road racers, Johnston and Peter Hickman, go head-to-head in a six-lap thriller. Sensational racing saw Johnston set a new Superstock lap record of 132.793mph on the penultimate lap, but he was unable to shake off the challenge of Hickman.

In a photo finish, Johnston edged it by nine one hundredths of a second, heart-stopping action that set the Maguiresbridge rider, now based in Hull, on his way to a UGP treble.

Completing the line-up is Andy Reid's first ever British Supersport victory at Oulton Park in September.

This came in the Saturday afternoon 12-lap sprint race in a typical no holds barred thriller involving five riders never more than a few yards apart throughout.

Reid, Jake Dixon, Luke Stapleford, Sam Hornsey and Reid's Team Traction Control team-mate James Rispoli were all fighting hard for the win.

Reid and Rispoli touched at one stage with the Newtownabbey rider dropping back to fifth, but in the final showdown Reid held his nerve in the late braking contest into the final bend on the last lap to take his maiden Supersport victory by a tenth of a second, celebrating in style.

Fans are able to vote for their favourite race of 2015 via a Twitter poll, which will remain live until moments before the winner is revealed next Friday night. Fans can relive highlights of the races and register their vote by at @bikeawards.

A dozen other awards will be presented on the night, such as IFS International Road Racer, JWA Team of the Year, Black Horse Short Circuit Rider and Kawasaki Off Road Rider.

Other prizes include RPS Hall of Fame, Noonan Services to Motorcycling, Digital Printing Outstanding Achievement, Belfast Telegraph Best Rider on UK and Ireland circuits and the coveted Joey Dunlop Trophy Irish Motorcyclist of the Year, in association with Enkalon.

Belfast Telegraph

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