Belfast Telegraph

Race for glory is on at Motorcyclist of the Year awards

By Paul Lindsay

Ballyclare's Jonathan Rea will make history tomorrow night, when he becomes the first home-grown world champion to be crowned Cornmarket Irish Motorcyclist of the Year at the gala black-tie bash in front a sell-out audience in Belfast's Ramada Plaza.

Some 12 years ago at the inaugural event, then run under the Irish Racer Awards banner, Rea lifted the Red Bull Young Rider of the Year 'gong'. Then just 16, his sartorial definition of excellence included a kilt and blonde-tipped spiky hair for the occasion, when presented with his award by MotoGP and F1 broadcaster Suzi Perry.

Even back then, after just one year of tarmac racing young Rea was regarded as Northern Ireland's greatest hope for global success since the days of the late great Joey Dunlop - who was voted Northern Ireland's Greatest Sports Star at Monday night's Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards.

Soon to celebrate his 29th birthday, which ironically he shares with inaugural winner Ryan Farquhar (who will be 40 on February 2), Rea has was won plenty of accolades in the interim years.

But to come back to Northern Ireland as world champion and be lauded by his home fans will mean a lot to the factory Kawasaki World Superbike star.

There is a raft of other important awards to be presented on the night, 13 in total, but one that seems to have captured the imagination of the general public in the past week is the McLean Bookmakers' Race of the Year.

Online polls directly linked with the world of social media allow race fans and enthusiasts to feel part of the whole award presentation decision process and while world champ Rea will be very busy on the stage during the evening - for once he hasn't made a shortlist.

Leading the way as we went to print was exuberant British Supersport racer Andy Reid. The Jordanstown ace (pictured) - who is also one of the country's leading tattoo artists - has all the swagger, and can pretty much be described as: 'once met, you never forget'.

Swagger and an energetic spirit is one thing, but what the 21-year-old produced on track last season as a British Supersport rookie, taking that memorable victory at Oulton Park in September, should be enough to see him lift the award for his TTC Yamaha squad and team owner Keith Flint of Prodigy fame.

Hot on his heels is Fermanagh road racer Lee Johnston. The East Coast Racing pilot is another quirky young man who is never short of a 'close-to-the-knuckle one-liner, but like Reid, he can also do the business on track.

Three wins at last year's Ulster Grand Prix, backed up impressive performances at the North West 200 - where he was a Superstock winner - and a debut podium at the Isle of Man TT capped a terrific season.

His race of the year nomination is for a stunning win in the Ulster Grand Prix Superstock encounter, where he edged out Peter Hickman by a minuscule 0.09sec, which will certainly run Reid's Oulton victory very close.

Alastair Seeley (NW 200 Supersport race 2) and Josh Elliott (Brands Hatch British Superstock) also feature in the nominations in the Race of the Year Award, but I'll be surprised if the charismatic duo of Reid and Johnston don't battle it out for top honours tomorrow night.

Belfast Telegraph

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