Man of the moment Jonathan Rea was crowned Irish Motorcyclist of the Year for a record fifth time in a row at the Irish Motorbike Awards in Belfast on Friday.
High-flying Rea was a nailed-on winner of the prestigious Joey Dunlop trophy after securing an unprecedented fifth World Superbike title in 2019.
The 32-year-old had to overcome his toughest challenge to date after Spain’s Alvaro Bautista won the first 11 races last season on the brand-new Ducati V4 to open a comfortable gap.
It seemed as though Rea’s stranglehold on the championship was destined to be broken, but the Kawasaki rider mounted a stunning comeback, winning 17 races in all to overhaul the former MotoGP star to retain his world crown at Magny-Cours in France with two rounds remaining.
Rea, who received a standing ovation at the Crowne Plaza Hotel last night as he took to the stage to receive the impressive Joey Dunlop trophy, said: “It’s something I never take for granted and I’m very lucky to be in this position.
“To be in a room full of so many motorcycling stars from Northern Ireland and represent that at the top of the world makes me feel really proud.
“It’s always the last awards ceremony that I go to before I start the new season and it’s just the cherry on top for me. I’m just really looking forward to this year now.”
Rea is entering the final year of his current deal with the factory Kawasaki Racing Team as he bids to win the World Superbike title for an astonishing sixth consecutive season.
The Templepatrick-based rider will begin his preparations in earnest as he resumes winter testing at Jerez in Spain on Tuesday. He will then travel on to Portimao in Portugal for further testing ahead of the opening round of 2020 at Phillip Island in Australia, which commences at the end of February.
There was also a special moment last night when Irish road racing legend Ryan Farquhar was inducted into the RPS Group Hall of Fame.
The Dungannon man joins famous names including Joey and Robert Dunlop, Brian Reid, Phillip McCallen, Johnny Rea, Eddie Laycock, Alan Irwin and Steven Cull on the illustrious roll of honour.
Farquhar, Irish national road racing’s most successful rider ever, was officially recognised by the Guinness Book of Records last year for his feat of winning a staggering 357 races – more than any other rider.
Following a serious crash at the North West 200 in 2016, the 43-year-old has since concentrated on running his KMR Kawasaki team and enjoyed more international success last year as Jeremy McWilliams bagged a victory in the Supertwin class at the North West 200.
England’s Peter Hickman was named IFS International Road Racer of the Year for the second successive time after a memorable season in 2019.
British Supersport champion Jack Kennedy won the Bayview Hotel Short Circuit Rider of the Year (GB Circuits), while fellow southern Irishman Michael Sweeney was the Belfast Telegraph National Road Racer of the Year.
The NI Air Ambulance Services to Motorcycling accolade was posthumously awarded to former team owner Wilson Craig, who sadly passed away last year.
Rising teenage prospect Scott Swann was a popular winner of the Kawasaki Young Rider of the Year accolade.
Cornmarket Insurance and Charles Hurst Motorcycles Irish Motorcyclist of the Year 2019: Jonathan Rea
RPS Group Hall of Fame: Ryan Farquhar
A.McLean Bookmakers Race of the Year: Alastair Seeley – British Supersport Sprint Race, Brands Hatch
IFS International Road Racer of the Year: Peter Hickman
Bayview Hotel Short Circuit Rider of the Year (GB Circuits): Jack Kennedy
Greenlight Television King of the Roads: Derek Sheils
JWA Team of the Year: Century Racing/IMR (British Superstock 600 Championship winners with Korie McGreevy)
Belfast Telegraph National Road Racer of the Year: Michael Sweeney
Classic Bike Festival Short Circuit Rider of the Year (Irish Circuits): Carl Phillips
NI Air Ambulance Services to Motorcycling: Wilson Craig
Belleek Off-Road Rider of the Year: Mark McLernon
Kawasaki Young Rider of the Year: Scott Swann