One of Northern Ireland's fastest families helped launch the 2018 Cornmarket Motorbike Awards at Carrickfergus Castle yesterday. The Irwin brothers, Glenn, Graeme and Andrew, should all be contenders for the main prize, the Cornmarket Irish Motorcyclist of the Year, when the winners are revealed in January 2018 at Belfast's Crowne Plaza Hotel.
The favourite for the award will undoubtedly be Jonathan Rea, who has lifted the main prize for the last two years and who currently leads the World Superbike Championship.
The Kawasaki rider is attempting to become the first person to win the World Superbike series three times in a row and only the second rider to lift the Irish Motorcyclist of the Year award for three successive years - the other being Joey Dunlop.
The organisers of the Cornmarket Awards have again teamed up with Enkalon Motorcycle Club, which means the overall champion will be presented with the iconic Joey Dunlop Trophy in the shape of the legend's famous yellow helmet.
The Irwin brothers have had a season to remember, with Graeme being crowned Maxxis British Motocross MX1 champion, BSB rider Glenn winning a memorable Superbike race at the North West 200 and Andrew having multiple podiums in the British Supersport Championship.
Graeme said: "As brothers we have always been competitive and there has been some healthy rivalry between us all year, driving each other on. There is always a lot of banter between us as to who is the fastest Irwin."
Glenn, who confirmed that he will compete at the Macau Grand Prix in November, commented: "The standard of riders here, north and south, is pretty remarkable. We really are punching above our weight whether it is road racing, short circuits or off-road.
"Of course, Jonathan Rea will be very hard to beat for the main award, but with lots of other awards up for grabs I hope it's a great night for the Irwin family."
Andrew, who hasn't given up hope of catching Keith Farmer in the battle for the British Supersport Championship crown, said: "I am going to have to win every round, and it is a long shot, but I will keep trying.
"It is a wonderful reflection of the quality of riders we are producing that the top four in the series are from Ireland."
Sam Geddis, Managing Director of Cornmarket Insurance Services, said: "As the chequered flag starts to come down on another fantastic season, we have again excelled on the world and local scenes and we are thrilled to be supporting the awards.
"Cornmarket continues to provide what we believe is an unrivalled service with the emphasis on customer care. This service and attention to detail is something the company is proud of."
The oldest standing accolade in motorcycling is voted for by the public and an expert panel of judges chaired by former British 250cc champion Adrian Coates, who said: "It's years since Tom Herron was the inaugural winner (in 1978), with winners like World champions Joey Dunlop, Brian Reid and Jonathan Rea while Phillip McCallen, Robert Dunlop, Jeremy McWilliams and Alan Morrison are also among past winners."
The black tie event will welcome some of the biggest names in the sport with details of how to vote announced soon.
Meanwhile, yesterday's Junior Manx Grand Prix was a success for Isle of Man competitors with four of the top six Island-based, the race won by Michael Evans from Darren Cooper and Jamie Williams, with top Irish rider David Lumsden eighth.
The Lightweight Manx race was won by Cooper from Skerries rider Andy Farrell and Barry Lee Evans, with Lisburn's Gareth Evans in eighth.