Voting has closed for the prestigious Adelaide Irish Motorcyclist of the Year award, with the final nominations for the Joey Dunlop trophy due to be revealed soon.
Eugene Laverty is the current holder of the famous silverware following his runner-up finish in the World Superbike Championship in 2013.
The Toomebridge man, who has sealed a switch to the top tier MotoGP series in a two-year deal with Aspar Honda, was unable to attend the event last year to collect the accolade, but Laverty has confirmed his appearance at motorcycling’s number one awards night at the Ramada Hotel in Belfast on Friday, January 23.
He will be joined by World Superbike rider Jonathan Rea, who is among the leading contenders for the feature award following his third place finish in the championship on the Pata Honda.
Rea has joined 2013 world champion Tom Sykes at Kawasaki in an exciting deal that many feel will enable the Ulsterman to challenge for the world crown this season.
He won four times last year on his way to third place overall on the ageing Fireblade and Rea will expect to be right in the title mix this year after impressing on the ZX-10R during testing in Spain prior to the winter break.
New Tyco BMW signing Alastair Seeley is also one of the key candidates to relieve Laverty of the coveted gong after finishing as the runner-up in the British Supersport Championship for Mar-Train Racing.
The Carrick man, who will contest the Pirelli National Superstock 1000 class for TAS Racing, also claimed two more North West 200 victories last May as he boosted his haul of wins to 12.
Seeley is now only three victories behind all-time record holder Robert Dunlop and with a stable of Tyco BMW machinery at his disposal this year, the 35-year-old will be quietly confident of his prospects of equalling Ballymoney hero Dunlop’s feat on the north coast.
For many, though, Michael Dunlop is the red-hot favourite to hoist aloft the Joey Dunlop trophy in Belfast for the first time after another sizzling year on the roads.
Dunlop wrote his name into the history books with a second consecutive four-timer at the Isle of Man TT, earning BMW’s maiden win in the feature class on the Mountain Course for 75 years as he reigned supreme in the Superbike, Superstock and Senior races.
He also came up trumps in the second Supersport race on his 600cc Honda and secured his first Superbike win at the North West 200, overhauling Aussie Josh Brookes to take the honours in the big race of the day after being edged out in a dramatic opener by his brother William on the final lap.
Laverty was also on the initial shortlist of 23 riders along with Andy Reid, who clinched second place in the British Superstock 600 series, plus Adelaide Masters Superbike and Supersport champions Cody Nally and Carl Phillips, William Dunlop, Jack Kennedy, Michael Laverty, Graeme Irwin, Lee Johnston, Jamie Hamilton, Derek McGee and Stuart Edmonds.
The result of the public vote is overseen by a panel of judges chaired by former British Champion Adrian Coates, with the outcome decided based on the number of votes cast for each rider and the considerations of the judges.
A dozen other awards will also be presented on the night including Road Racer of the Year, Team of the Year, Hall of Fame and Race of the Year, with the final nominations for each category also due to be announced soon.
Tickets are almost sold out with only a handful remaining and can be purchased by emailing email@example.com, or Tel: 07584058810.