Rea claimed the prestigious accolade for the seventh year in a row following his runner-up finish in last year’s World Superbike Championship, when Turkey’s Toprak Razgatlioglu broke his stranglehold on the title, which Rea won an unmatched six times in successive years from 2015 to 2020.
Irish motorcycling’s annual gala night in Belfast, due to have taken place last Friday night, was called off once more as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. A virtual awards ceremony was held instead, hosted by Stephen Watson of BBC Sport NI and Keith Huewen.
Factory Kawasaki rider Rea has retained the unique Joey Dunlop trophy for another year following his battling performance last year, with the 34-year-old missing out on a seventh world crown by only 13 points after a compelling season-long tussle with Razgatlioglu.
A delighted Rea said: “This is incredible. To beat the record set by Joey Dunlop is simply unreal. He was my hero growing up and to think I have now won this award once more than him is hard to believe.
“The Dunlop and Rea families have a great connection as my grandfather was one of the Joey’s first sponsors. To this day for me to even be mentioned in the same breath as Joey Dunlop is very humbling, as he was one of the greatest sporting ambassadors this country has ever had,” he added.
“I am gutted I can’t receive this trophy on the night. It’s such a wonderful occasion every year when all the motorcycling industry come together under one roof.
“I receive so much support from the fans there and I will miss seeing them all. This is an incredible trophy with so much history which will once again take pride of place as the centrepiece in my home.”
Rea is in Spain this week as his winter testing programme resumes at Jerez ahead of the opening round of the 2022 world championship at the beginning of April, which will be held at Motorland Aragon.
And the six-time champion has warned he intends to come out with all guns blazing in his pursuit of world title number seven.
“I assure everyone I am planning a big assault on this new season,” Rea said.
“I am excited about the challenge, I am training hard and can’t wait to get going when the first round gets under way at the start of April in Spain.”
Five other awards were presented, with Jack Kennedy from Dublin picking up the Short Circuit Rider of the Year on UK Circuits after he won the British Supersport title for a third time.
Alastair Seeley from Carrickfergus was named the Short Circuit Rider of the Year on Irish Circuits in recognition of his Ulster Superbike and Supersport title double.
Teenager Cameron Dawson claimed the Young Rider of the Year accolade for winning the British Junior Supersport Championship, with the Co Tyrone prospect sealing seven victories during a season to remember.
The Off Road Award went to Team Ireland’s Dean Dillon, Justin Reid and Mark McLernon for their historic victory at the Quadcross of Nations in France, while Northern Ireland’s Hitachi KTM outfit won the Team of the Year award after victory in the British MX2 Championship.
There was also a special acknowledgement for Irish road racing commentator George McCann, who was posthumously named as the recipient of the Services to Sport award. Known as the voice of Irish national road racing, George passed away in 2021 following a battle with illness.
The awards ceremony can be watched on demand on the Bike Awards Facebook page or via YouTube.
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