Belfast Telegraph

Sports Awards

Triple world champion Rea set to emulate legend Joey's superb hat-trick


By Robert Jones

The spotlight will be shining brightly on three-time World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea at tonight's glittering Cornmarket Motorbike Awards in Belfast.

Rea is poised to match Joey Dunlop as the only rider ever to be crowned Irish Motorcyclist of the Year three times in a row.

Eight-time winner Dunlop achieved the feat from 1983-1985 during his run of Formula 1 World Championship successes while Rea has claimed the award for the past two years, adding to his previous wins in 2007 and 2008.

The factory Kawasaki rider returned to action this week at the first pre-season test of 2018 at Jerez in Spain, where he was second fastest behind team-mate Tom Sykes.

"I've had an incredible reception the last two years when I've gone onto the stage and people are genuinely happy for what I've achieved," Rea said.

"I think it is important to come back home and enjoy those moments with the people who have helped me get here."

Rea will be accompanied by his crew chief, Pere Riba, who has been instrumental in his success since he joined Kawasaki in 2015.

The 30-year-old and fellow World Superbike rider Eugene Laverty are taking time out of their hectic winter schedules to attend motorcycling's own version of the Oscars this evening before resuming testing on Sunday at Portimao in Portugal.

The World Superbike season starts at Phillip Island in Australia from February 23-25.

Rea is a massive odds-on favourite to win the main accolade tonight, when he is joined on the eight-strong shortlist by fellow nominees Glenn Irwin, Michael Dunlop, Alastair Seeley, Eugene Laverty, Andrew Irwin, Keith Farmer and Graeme Irwin.

The sold-out black-tie ball will be hosted by MotoGP commentator and former racer Keith Huewen and BBC Sport NI's Stephen Watson.

More than a dozen awards will be presented, with the outcome of the A. McLean Race of the Year and RPS Group Hall of Fame categories also eagerly anticipated every year.

The Belfast Telegraph National Road Racer of the Year will also be revealed, with a host of leading riders in contention including Derek Sheils, Derek McGee, Adam McLean and Paul Jordan.

Awards list: Cornmarket Irish Motorcyclist of the Year, IFS International Road Racer of the Year, Belfast Telegraph National Road Racer of the Year, Belleek Off Road Rider of the Year, Blackhorse Short Circuit Rider of the Year (UK Circuits), Blackhorse Short Circuit Rider of the Year (Ireland Circuits), Phillip McCallen Motorcycles Young Rider of the Year, John Wilson Advertising Team of the Year, A. McLean Bookmakers Race of the Year, RPS Group Hall of Fame, Greenlight Special Recognition, Kawasaki Outstanding Achievement , Air Ambulance NI Services to Motorcycling

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