Belfast Telegraph

Adelaide Motorcycle Awards: Eugene Laverty pips Michael Dunlop in title photo finish

Eugene Laverty topped both the public and the judges poll to be crowned Adelaide Irish Motorcyclist of the Year in association with the Enkalon Club last night in front of a sell-out crowd at the Ramada Plaza Hotel, Belfast.

For the 27-year old Toomebridge rider, who is now based in Monaco, his nine wins and 10 podiums that took him to second place in the highly competitive World Superbike Championship were enough to claim the iconic Joey Dunlop Trophy, just edging Michael Dunlop into second position in what the organisers described as “a very close finish in a record poll”.

Laverty was unable to attend last night’s function as he is in Almeria in Spain where he began testing with his new Voltcom Crescent Suzuki team yesterday ahead of the first WSB Championship round at Phillip Island, Australia on February 23.

From his Monaco home where the trophy was presented to him, Laverty said: “I’m overwhelmed to receive the Joey Dunlop Trophy as I faced some stiff opposition especially from Michael Dunlop.

“What he did on the roads last year was superb — I have so much respect for him.

“This trophy means so much to me simply because Joey Dunlop was the reason I took up racing — the man I wanted to go and see when I was growing up. He’s a true hero of mine.

“To have this trophy flown to me in Monaco is something really special which I will never forget. I am sorry I couldn’t be in Belfast for the handover as I’m testing in Spain and then Portugal with my new team, trying to get ready to win the World Superbike Championship this season.

“Joey Dunlop was Northern Ireland’s last World champion and I want to be the next.

“I gave it my best shot last season but came up short.

“Thanks to all the people who took the trouble to vote for me, it means a lot to me — and not only for me but all the other competitors nominated.”

Laverty made it a double last night by also picking up the Blackhorse Short Circuit Rider of the Year Award.

Michael Dunlop did not go home empty handed as he claimed both the IFS International and National Road Racer of the Year trophies.

A special ovation greeted the announcement of the RPS Group Services to Motorcycling Award which went to MCUI (UC) Race Chaplains Noel Agnew, Edwin Ewart and John Kilpatrick for their tremendous, unseen, diligent work throughout the paddocks during the racing season.

The long standing specially designed Red Bull Trophy for the Young Rider of the Year, previously won by Eugene Laverty and Jonathan Rea, went to 20-year old Castledawson Irish Superbike champion Nico Mawhinney.

The IAM Outstanding Achievement Award went to Ducati 848 TriOptions champion Marty Nutt while a Greenlight Television Special Recognition Award went to the now retired Ian Lougher for over 30 years in the sport that included eight North West 200 wins, 10 TT victories and 18 Ulster Grand Prix wins in a distinguished career.

Mar-Train Racing were the winners of our Belfast Telegraph Team of the Year Award — the Temple-based Tim and Sonya Martin team having won the British Supersport Championship with Stuart Easton in the saddle — while the McLean Bookmakers Race of the Year title went to Easton following his last Supersport race of the season tussle with Alastair Seeley at Brands Hatch when the title could have gone either way.

Carrick ace Seeley was named Blackhorse Best Rider on UK and Ireland short circuits in 2013.

Superb results in the FIM Women’s World Championship saw teenager Natalie Kane from Loughbrickland receive the Alias Off Road Rider of the Year Award for her fourth position in the series.

Alan Irwin who began racing in 1977 and retired in 1997 was inducted into the Belleek Hall of Fame. The audience rose to hail over 300 wins including being most successful Embassy Championship rider and joint top Regal Championship competitor.

Irwin was a popular choice to top off yet another glittering Adelaide Awards evening, majestically compered by the BBC’s Stephen Watson and Jackie Fullerton.

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