Castledawson’s Nico Mawhinney has been awarded the prestigious Bertie Mann Award for 2013 - the 40th year of the presentation of the perpetual silver trophy and replica.
The accolade is presented to competitors under the age of 21 involved in road racing, motocross and trials who are nominated by their respective MCUI clubs and adjudged by a distinguished panel to be the most outstanding rider in Ireland.
Mawhinney clinched the Irish Superbike title this year to become the youngest ever champion.
He began racing in 2007 on a Honda 125cc Grand Prix machine before stepping up to a 600cc Suzuki, previously raced by Craig Gibson.
Mawhinney rode the bike for two seasons and finished second in the 2010
Irish 600cc Clubman’s Championship, setting nine lap records in the process and becoming the youngest ever rider to win the Clubman’s title.
He also topped the championship table in the 600cc Ulster Championship and took another step forward in his career in 2011, when his dad purchased an ex-TAS Racing Suzuki Superstock machine previously raced by New Zealand’s Bruce Anstey.
The young prospect went on to secure both the Irish and Ulster Superbike Clubman’s Championships and pocketed the Superstock title.
Last year, the Suzuki was upgraded to Superbike specification and after a season spent adapting to the more powerful characteristics of the GSX-R1000, Mawhinney climbed further up the racing ladder.
He won his first Irish Superbike race at Kirkistown on Easter Monday and became a consistent podium finisher throughout the year, prevailing to clinch the championship title, again becoming the youngest ever rider here to achieve the feat.
Mawhinney has now set his sights on competing at British championship level in 2014 but if nothing materialises, he will retain his trusty Suzuki and defend his ISB title.
Previous winners of the prestigious Bertie Mann Award include Steve Cull, Norman Brown, Johnny Rea, Mark Farmer, Gary Cowan, Gordon Crockard, Michael Laverty, Eugene Laverty, Jonathan Rea and Michael Dunlop.