Biking royalty in town for glittering awards party

Michael Dunlop on his MD Racing 600cc Honda at the Isle of Man TT in 2013
Michael Dunlop on his MD Racing 600cc Honda at the Isle of Man TT in 2013

The winner of the prestigious Adelaide Irish Motorcyclist of the Year Award in association with Enkalon will be announced tonight during a sparkling bash at the Ramada Plaza Hotel in Belfast.

Eight nominees for the prized title are in contention, with the coveted Joey Dunlop Trophy - won by Ryan Farquhar last year - up for grabs at the sold-out event.

World Superbike hot-shot Eugene Laverty and road racing top gun Michael Dunlop are the clear favourites for the main accolade, although the shortlist features a dearth of talent including British Supersport Championship runner-up and double North West 200 winner Alastair Seeley, Pata Honda World Superbike contender Jonathan Rea, Adelaide Masters and Irish road racing Superbike champion Derek Sheils, women’s motocross high-flier Natalie Kane, Irish Superbike champion Nico Mawhinney and Marty Nutt, who won the Ducati 848 crown.

In reality, though, the outcome is between Laverty and Dunlop, who shone so brightly in 2013 in their respective disciplines.

Toome man Laverty - who will complete a two-day pre-season test on the Crescent Suzuki at Almeria in Spain today - chalked up nine World Superbike wins on the factory Aprilia RSV4 as he battled his way to the series runner-up spot behind Kawasaki’s Tom Sykes, while Dunlop matched Phillip McCallen’s feat of four Isle of Man TT wins in a week last June, including the Holy Grail of a Superbike victory on the Mountain Course on the Honda TT Legends Fireblade.

The results of the public vote have been finalised and the indications are, perhaps somewhat predictably, that it’s an incredibly tight call between the pair.

A panel of judges including chairman Adrian Coates, Jeremy McWilliams, Ryan Farquhar, Brian Reid, Gordon Crockard and Enkalon Club chairman David Weir have also had their say and all will be revealed in front of a packed house at the star-studded gala tonight, which includes World Supersport champion Sam Lowes among the guests.

A total of 12 awards will be presented this evening, including International Road Racer of the Year, Team of the Year, Short Circuit Rider of the Year and Race of the Year.

Meanwhile, TT hero Dunlop will follow in the footsteps of his father, Robert and uncle Joey today by becoming a Freeman of the Borough of the Ballymoney, with the honour set to be conferred on the 24-year-old at a special ceremony this morning.

o The seven-round Arenacross Tour kick-starts this evening at the Odyssey Arena in Belfast, when Gordon Crockard and Wayne Garrett are among the top Irish hopefuls at the Queen’s Quay venue, where they will pit their skills against some of the world’s top indoor riders.

Crockard - Ireland’s most celebrated motocross star - said: “It’s become all of a sudden very real. I’m going to be relying on past experiences of racing indoors because I haven’t been doing any of the indoor events in Europe.

“Some of the other riders, they definitely have an initial advantage because they have been riding overseas and so they have some fresh indoor track experience under their belts.”

The opening round continues for a second night tomorrow at the Odyssey.

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