Belfast Telegraph

Hat-trick hero Jonathan Rea confirmed for Belfast awards night

 

By Roy Harris

Jonathan Rea will be the special guest at the 2018 Cornmarket Insurance Motorcycle Awards, which will take place on January 26 in the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Shaw’s Bridge, Belfast.

Recently-crowned three-time World Superbike champion Rea will fly in from Spain — where he will be testing with the Kawasaki Racing Team — specially for the evening.

With his recent history making back-to-back championships, Rea will start as clear favourite to win the Cornmarket Irish Motorcyclist of the Year in association with Enkalon and collect the iconic Joey Dunlop Trophy for the third year in a row.

The only other rider to win the Irish Motorcyclist of the Year award three times in a row was Joey Dunlop in 1983, ’84 and ’85.

However, all is not cut and dried as the voters for the recipient of this award will be the general public overseen by a panel of judges led by Adrian Coates, a former 250cc British champion.

Quite a few potential contenders who will garner public support include British Maxxis MX1 Motocross champion Graeme Irwin and his two brothers — Glenn, who won that unforgettable NW200 Superbike race after a heart-stopping battle with Alastair Seeley and Ian Hutchinson and scored his first British Superbike win at Silverstone, and the youngest of the Irwin clan Andrew, who takes the British Supersport Championship to the final round this weekend.

Fellow Ulster rider Keith Farmer leads this particular championship fairly comfortably, and Irwin would require a miracle to overhaul the Clogher Bullet who himself should be a contender for the main award.

You never rule out a Dunlop for any award and Michael was a double TT winner including taking the all-new Bennetts Suzuki to its maiden victory in the Senior TT, quite a feat in its own right.

The Irish Motorcyclist of the Year Award goes back to 1978 when, as a brainchild of Enkalon Motorcycle Club, it was first awarded to Tom Herron, with World champion Brian Reid also a past winner — Joey Dunlop won the award a record eight times throughout his fantastic career.

Included in the roll call of winners are Phillip McCallen, Robert Dunlop, Jeremy McWilliams, Adrian Archibald and the chairman of the panel of judges Coates, while the only off-road winner of the main award was Alan Morrison.

Up to a dozen other awards to be presented on the night include International Road Racer of the Year, Team of the Year, Off-road Rider of the Year, Hall of Fame recipient, Young Rider of the Year and Short Circuit Rider of the Year.

Coates said: “This is always a massive task with so many impressive performances by competitors throughout the year, but we have a knowledgeable panel, who will whittle the nominations down to the final winners and I know they do not take their task lightly.”

It has also been announced that BT MotoGP commentator and winner of a 1980 NW200 Superbike race on his only appearance at the event, Keith Huewen, will return for the second time to host the evening alongside the BBC’s Stephen Watson.

Huewen said: “What a night I had last year.

“You know, only in Ireland could competitors get the reception the winners received and I enjoyed it so much last year I’m staying an extra day this time,” he added.

Details of how to vote and when to vote will be announced next month.

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