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Hot favourite: Jonathan Rea is set to win his fifth straight Irish Motorcyclist of the Year prize after a thrilling 2019

Hot favourite: Jonathan Rea is set to win his fifth straight Irish Motorcyclist of the Year prize after a thrilling 2019

Hot favourite: Jonathan Rea is set to win his fifth straight Irish Motorcyclist of the Year prize after a thrilling 2019

The cream of Irish motorcycling will take centre stage this evening in Belfast when World Superbike king Jonathan Rea heads a star-studded guest list at the sport's 'Oscars'.

Rea is set to be crowned Irish Motorcyclist of the Year once again at the Irish Motorbike Awards in association with Cornmarket and Charles Hurst Motorcycles at the Crowne Plaza Hotel.

The Ballyclare man, who turns 33 next month, overcame his biggest challenge to date in 2019 as he triumphed against the odds to win the World Superbike title for the fifth consecutive year.

Rea and his Kawasaki team were left stunned as Championship newcomer and former MotoGP rider Alvaro Bautista from Spain dominated the first 11 races of the season on the new Ducati V4 machine.

Bautista appeared unbeatable as he opened up a commanding lead at the top of the points table, but Rea showed the fighting spirit of a champion as he mounted a sensational comeback.

Slowly but surely he chipped away at Bautista's advantage before taking the title lead following an imperious treble at his home round at Donington Park.

Rea never relinquished his grip on the world crown as he went from strength to strength, winning 17 races in all to secure the title at Magny-Cours in France with two rounds to spare.

The five-time champion is now the undisputed No.1 World Superbike rider in history, surpassing England's Carl Fogarty's tally of four titles (1994 '95, '98, '99).

Last year, Rea became the first rider ever to win the Irish Motorcyclist of the Year four times on the trot after previously equalling Joey Dunlop's record of three consecutive wins (1983-85).

And now the 32-year-old is poised to win the prestigious Joey Dunlop trophy for an unprecedented fifth time in a row tonight, when a hero's welcome awaits the former schoolboy motocross champion in front of a sold-out crowd in Belfast.

For Rea, the award holds extra significance given the winner is decided by an online public vote.

"Wherever I have been in the world in the past, I have flown home every year to attend this event, as celebrating with my fans at home is something very special to me," he said.

"To have riders from every discipline gather underneath one roof makes the Irish Motorbike Awards a unique occasion. What makes it more special is the fact that it is voted for by the fans."

A dozen awards in total will be presented this evening at the gala event, hosted by BBC Sport Northern Ireland's Stephen Watson and BT Sport MotoGP commentator Keith Huewen.

The top gongs also include IFS International Road Racer of the Year, with Peter Hickman a hot favourite to win for the second year in a row following a record-breaking season.

The Belfast Telegraph National Road Racer of the Year is less clear cut, with Derek McGee, Derek Sheils, Michael Sweeney and Paul Jordan in the mix.

Another hotly contested category is the Bayview Hotel Best Short Circuit Rider on GB Circuits, featuring Andrew Irwin, Jack Kennedy, Korie McGreevy and Eunan McGlinchey.

The RPS Group Hall of Fame is always a highlight and last year saw the honour posthumously awarded to William Dunlop on an emotional night as his partner, Janine Brolly, and mum Louise accepted it on his behalf.

Along with Rea, VIP guests include Hickman, Lee Johnston, Glenn Irwin, Eugene Laverty, Jack Kennedy, Davey Todd and Alastair Seeley to name a few.

The awards will be streamed live on the King of the Roads Facebook page.

Irish Motorbike Awards nominations

Irish Motorcyclist of the Year 2019 in association with Cornmarket and Charles Hurst Motorcycles: Michael Dunlop, Josh Elliott, Andrew Irwin, Jonathan Rea, Glenn Irwin, Lee Johnston, Jack Kennedy, Eugene Laverty, Korie McGreevy, Mark McLernon, Alastair Seeley, Carl Phillips, Derek Sheils, Michael Sweeney.

IFS International Road Racer of the Year: Peter Hickman, Bruce Anstey, Michael Dunlop, Dean Harrison, Glenn Irwin, Lee Johnston.

Belfast Telegraph National Road Racer of the Year: Barry Davidson, Paul Jordan, Gary Dunlop, Derek McGee, Michael Sweeney, Derek Sheils.

Bayview Hotel Short Circuit Rider of the Year (GB Circuits): Andrew Irwin, Caolan Irwin, Josh Elliott, Jack Kennedy, Kevin Keyes, Richard Kerr, Eunan McGlinchey, Korie McGreevy, Alastair Seeley, Scott Swann.

Classic Bike Festival Short Circuit Rider of the Year (Irish Circuits): Ray Casey, Cameron Dawson, Jason Lynn, Carl Phillips, Richie Ryan.

Kawasaki Young Rider of the Year: Cameron Dawson, Dean Dillon, Rhys Irwin, Jamie Lyons, Ryan Mawhinney, Conor Mullan, Andrew Smyth, Scott Swann, Curtis Trimble, James McManus.

Belleek Off Road Rider of the Year: Martin Barr, Dean Dillon, Glenn McCormick, Josh Meara, Mark McLernon, Justin Reid.

John Wilson Advertising Team of the Year: Burrows Engineering/RK Racing, Team 109 Kawasaki, Century Racing/IMR Triumph, Bobby Campbell Motors, KMR Kawasaki, MCUI Quadcross Team, EHA Racing, Martin Jones Racing, IFS Racing, Mark McLernon Racing.

A McLean Bookmakers Race of the Year 2019: British Supersport Sprint Race, Brands Hatch (won by Alastair Seeley), Ulster Grand Prix, Superbike Race 1 (won by Peter Hickman), British Superstock 600 Race, Knockhill (won by Eunan McGlinchey), Race of Legends, Armoy (won by Michael Dunlop), North West 200, Supersport Race 1 (won by Lee Johnston), British Superbike Championship, Silverstone Race 1 (won by Josh Elliott), British Superstock 600 Race, Brands Hatch (won by Korie McGreevy), British Superbike Championship, Thruxton Race 1 (won by Andrew Irwin).

SPECIAL AWARDS

RPS Group Hall of Fame, Greenlight Television King of the Roads, NI Air Ambulance Services to Motorcycling

Belfast Telegraph