Jonathan Rea's pride as fans vote him Cornmarket Irish Motorcyclist of the Year awards
Double World champion Jonathan Rea rounded off a truly spectacular second successive World Superbike winning season last night by being named Cornmarket Irish Motorcyclist of the Year, in association with the Enkalon motorcycle club, during a lavish presentation in the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Belfast.
After a rousing reception from the packed audience, a delighted Rea, who had just flown in from Jerez where he had been testing on Wednesday and Thursday ahead of the 2017 season, spoke of his pride in again taking home to his Isle of Man base, the iconic Joey Dunlop trohy, in the form of Joey's yellow No3 Arai racing helmet.
Ballyclare raised Rea said: "This is huge. To have the public support me the way they do even though I'm racing far from home is an honour and I thank all those who took the time to vote for me.
"To be awarded this amazing trophy for the second year in a row (and fourth time in total) is so humbling.
"You are all well aware of the racing history attached to my grandfather John Rea and Joey Dunlop, this makes the award extra special.
"To win back to back world championship's was a huge team effort, from my Kawasaki team, sponsors, right to my family... they were all 100% behind me. The tests the last few days at Jerez were positive and I am now looking forward to the season ahead."
It was revealed that Rea was the runaway winner with Michael Dunlop and Carl Phillips voted second and third.
Rea was also received a special recognition award, presented by Kawasaki, in the form of a specially commissioned painting of his world championship victory in Qatar.
The most surprised winner on the night was North Antrim MP Ian Paisley Jnr, a keen motorcyclist and racing fan, for his services to the sport in assisting clubs and lobbying Ministers to secure funding for motorcycle racing down through the years - without this funding where would the sport be today?
Greenlight Television made a hugely popular special achievement award to John Burrows for his time as a competitor and team owner. The award recognised his successes and there was also an acknowledgement of the heartbreak he and his family have been through in recent times following the death of the Cookstown team's young rider Malachi Mitchell-Thomas last year.
There was no surprise when the Metzeler Ulster Grand Prix second Superbike race was named as the A.McLean Bookmakers Race of the Year. The race in which Ian Hutchinson set the current world's fastest lap at over 134mph on his way to beating Bruce Anstey and Michael Dunlop again brought gasps when it was shown on the big screen.
Hutchinson's success in finishing second in the British Superstock 1000cc championship and winning the Superstock classes at the North West 200, TT and Ulster Grand Prix helped Tyco BMW win the JWA Team of the Year award for Hector and Philip Neill in what was one of the closest fought categories.
Hutchinson was also named IFS International Road Racer of the Year for his four wins at the UGP, a treble at the TT and a win at the North West 200 plus the fact that only he is the only man to have lapped Dundrod at over 134mph.
Inducted into the RPS Group Hall of Fame was Gordon Crockard, the multi-British and Irish motocross competitor, who also won three 250cc Grand Prix and finished third in the 2001 World Championship. The Newtownards man also rode in 14 Motocross des Nations, his last in 2014 at 35-years of age.
Crockard is still heavily involved in the sport running his seventh MX camp in Spain while after four years overseeing the Honda 150 European series he moves up the Honda management ladder to become Off Road manager for most of Honda's activities on the world stage.
On a night superbly co-hosted by former Grand Prix rider turned commentator Keith Huewen and BBC NI's Stephen Watson, Derek Shiels deservedly collected the Belfast Telegraph National Road Racer of the Year award from the paper's Group Sports Editor Jim Gracey. The award recognised Derek's achievements in winning the Irish Superbike and Supertwins Road Racing Championship.