World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea says he wouldn’t miss the chance to celebrate with his home fans at the Cornmarket Motorbike Awards in Belfast.
Rea has been confirmed as one of the star guests at the glittering awards night at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, which will be held on Friday, January 18.
The 31-year-old is closing in on an unprecedented fourth successive world title and will have his first chance to put the championship beyond doubt next weekend at Magny-Cours in France.
The factory Kawasaki rider, who has scooped the top accolade at the prestigious awards night for the past three years, helped launch the event in Belfast.
Rea said: “To have riders from every discipline gather underneath one roof makes the Cornmarket Bike Awards a unique occasion.
“It’s amazing to see the famous names on the main trophy and I hope mine can be added once again on the roll of honour.
“Wherever I have been in the world I have flown home every year to support this event, as celebrating success with my fans at home is something very special to me,” added Rea.
“My supporters make an incredible effort to travel to watch me in action, like last week in Portugal, so I enjoy repaying them by attending this prestigious night.”
Rea won both races at Portimao in Portugal to increase his lead in the championship to 116 points over Welsh rider Chaz Davies.
Victory in race one at Magny-Cours, coupled with Davies finishing no higher than third, would seal a fourth title for Rea, equalling Carl Fogarty’s record of world crowns.
The Ballyclare man has already surpassed Fogarty’s benchmark of 59 race wins, increasing his own haul to 66 after his third successive double last weekend in Portugal.
Rea, though, is taking things one step at a time.
“I am just trying to focus on doing the best I can, going out to win and not think about the championship,” he said.
“That's going to be the attitude – to try and win the rest of these races.
“The massive target of a fourth world championship is in the back of my head; Carl Fogarty has achieved that and he was the greatest of all time in Superbike terms.
“I have already surpassed his win total, which is incredible and I just feel like it's my time, my wave, and I want to ride it for as long as possible and enjoy every moment of it.”
Rea’s incredible consistency has resulted in 12 wins out of 20 races held so far this season. He has also finished on the podium 17 times and has won the last six races in a row after securing braces at Laguna Seca and Misano before the summer break, before resuming with another double at Portimao.
The Ulster rider will once again be an overwhelming favourite to hoist aloft the Irish Motorcyclist of the Year trophy in the New Year.
The award will be voted for by the public and overseen by a panel of expert judges, chaired by Adrian Coates.
Former British champion Coates said: “The trophy was first presented back in 1978 to Tom Herron, and since then there has been an illustrious roll of honour with winners like World Champions Joey Dunlop and Brian Reid, as well as Phillip McCallen, Jeremy McWilliams, Michael Dunlop and Robert Dunlop to name but a few.
“Last year a new version of the main trophy was presented for the first time, and it’s fitting that the trophy is named after Northern Ireland’s most famous motorcyclist Joey Dunlop.”
Cornmarket will continue its long-standing partnership with the Awards in 2019.
The company’s managing director, Glenn Lindsay, said: “Cornmarket is proud to be the title sponsor of the 2019 Motorbike Awards.
“As the flag comes down on another fantastic motorcycle season during which riders have yet again excelled on the world and local scenes, we are delighted to be supporting the awards.
“Cornmarket continues to provide what we believe is a unrivalled service for all bike and all types of insurance, with the emphasis on customer care.”
More than a dozen awards will be presented and the event will welcome some of the biggest names in the sport. Details of how to vote will be announced in November.
Anyone wishing to purchase tickets can email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 07584058810. Details are also available via the official Twitter account @BikeAwards.