Six-timie World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea has been crowned the Adelaide Irish Motorcyclist of the Year for a record-breaking ninth time.
The factory Kawasaki rider has now overtaken Isle of Man TT legend Joey Dunlop, who won Irish motorcycling’s top award eight times between 1979 and 2000.
Rea, who is in Spain this week for the resumption of his winter testing programme at Jerez, has scooped the coveted accolade a record seven times in succession, with his latest success coming after he finished as the runner-up in the 2021 World Superbike Championship.
The 34-year-old was embroiled in a gripping battle for the title with Turkey’s Toprak Razgatlioglu, who narrowly prevailed by 13 points to end Rea’s unprecedented run of six world titles in-a-row since his maiden triumph in 2015.
Normally held at a sold-out gala event in Belfast, the awards were staged virtually once more due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and Rea instead received the famous Joey Dunlop trophy at his home.
Rea said: “This is incredible. To beat the record set by Joey Dunlop is simply unreal. He was my hero growing up and to think I have now won this award once more than him is hard to believe.
“The Dunlop and Rea families have a great connection as my grandfather was one of the Joey’s first sponsors. To this day for me to even be mentioned in the same breath as Joey is very humbling, as he was one of the greatest sporting ambassadors this country has ever had.
“I am gutted I can’t receive this trophy on the night. It’s such a wonderful occasion every year when all the motorcycling industry come together under one roof.
“I receive so much support from the fans there and I will miss seeing them all. This is an incredible trophy with so much history which will once again take pride of place as the centrepiece in my home.”
After losing out to Yamaha rival Razgatlioglu last season, Rea is more determined than ever to win back the title in 2022, when he will revert back to his favourite number 65.
“I assure everyone I am planning a big assault on this new season,” he said.
“I am excited about the challenge, I am training hard and can’t wait to get going when the first round gets under way in Spain at the start of April.”
The awards presentation, hosted by BBC NI’s Stephen Watson and Keith Huewen, is available to watch on demand on the Bike Awards Facebook page and on YouTube. Five further awards were handed out, with Dubliner Jack Kennedy named Short Circuit Rider of the Year on UK Circuits after he won the British Supersport title for a third time.
Carrickfergus man Alastair Seeley won the Short Circuit Rider of the Year award after he dominated the domestic Ulster Superbike Championship, clinching the Superbike and Supersport titles and completing the season unbeaten on the IFS Yamaha R1.
Seeley is the all-time record holder at the North West 200 with 24 wins, but the 42-year-old is currently without a ride for Northern Ireland’s biggest road race, which returns in May for the first time since 2019 after successive cancellations due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Young prospect Cameron Dawson from Dungannon won the Young Rider of the Year award following his exceptional performance in the British Junior Supersport Championship, chalking up seven victories on his way to the title.
Team Ireland’s Dean Dillon, Justin Reid and Mark McLernon scooped the Off Road Award following the trio’s historic maiden victory at the Quadcross of Nations in France, while Hitachi KTM fuelled by Milwaukee secured the Team of the Year award as the Northern Ireland team clinched the British MX2 Championship.
Renowned Irish road racing commentator George McCann was posthumously named as the recipient of the Services to Sport award. A well-known face in the racing paddocks, George sadly passed away last year.