World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea honoured by third Irish Rider of Year crown
Jonathan Rea hoisted the iconic Joey Dunlop Trophy aloft last night and received a standing ovation after being named Irish Motorcyclist of the Year - in association with Enkalon MCC - during the sell-out Cornmarket Motorbike Awards at the Ramada Plaza Hotel, Belfast.
Rea was winning the award for the third time after previous success in 2007 and 2008, but this time was special, coming on the back of winning the 2015 World Superbike Championship, only the fourth Irish rider to be crowned a World champion following Ralph Bryans, Joey Dunlop and Brian Reid.
Thrilled Kawasaki rider Rea said: "I am humbled to return to Northern Ireland as World champion and receive such a reception. It was always a goal of mine and it is even more of an honour to win this amazing trophy for the third time.
"Joey was always a hero of mine and to be voted Irish Motorcyclist of the Year by the general public is mega. I could not have achieved the championship without the support of many people throughout my career, most of all my family."
It was 12 years ago that a 16-year-old Rea won the Red Bull Young Rider of the Year award and the standing ovation that he received last night was testament to his skill and popularity at having reached the pinnacle of his sport.
Rea was a double winner on the night, also picking up the Black Horse Short Circuit Rider of the Year award.
The Garmin Young Rider of the Year went to 18-year-old Kevin Keyes from Edenderry, who took his talents to the inaugural KTM Junior Cup at BSB meetings and finished the season in second position, taking five wins along the way.
There was another deafening reception for Ian Hutchinson as he was declared IFS International Road Racer of the Year on the back of his TT treble having returned from a horrendous career-threatening leg injury in 2010, battling back to the top step through sheer determination following some 30 operations.
Belleek National Road Racer of the Year went to double Irish champion William Dunlop, who went through the Irish National Supersport Road Race season undefeated riding the CD/IC Yamaha.
The JWA Team of the Year prize went to the Hitachi KTM UK Team ran by Crossgar businessman Roger Magee, who saw his rider Shaun Simpson win the British MX1 Motocross Championship and take an MXGP overall victory in Holland on his way to fourth in the World championship.
Three-wheel sidecar cross duo Neil Campbell and Ross Graham won the Kawasaki UK Off Road Award, the pair winning the Ulster title for the fourth year in a row.
Road racer Lee Johnston received the Digital Printing Outstanding Achievement Award for his charity campaign against cancer.
The Belfast Telegraph Best Rider on UK and Irish circuits went to British Superstock 1000cc champion Josh Elliott from Ballinamallard, while the Noonan Services to Motorcycling went to the Injured Riders Fund.
Inducted into the RPS Group Hall of Fame was the late Owen McNally, a hugely talented rider who lost his life following a high-speed crash during the 1999 Ulster Grand Prix at Dundrod.
Owen lived on the North West 200 course and was a 250cc winner there in 1997, winning an Ulster Grand Prix 250cc race in the same year. He left the sport with a lasting legacy as a top flight international rider.