Michael Dunlop could not have asked for a better start to 2015. First he announced he had signed for his new team Milwaukee Yamaha and then he emulated his father Robert and uncle Joey after being named the 2014 Adelaide Irish Motorcyclist of the Year in Belfast at the glittering Adelaide Enkalon Irish Motorcyclist of the Year awards.
The 11-times Isle of Man TT winner fended off stiff opposition from World Superbike rider Jonathan Rea to clinch the top accolade, a replica of his late uncle Joey Dunlop’s famous yellow Arai racing helemt for the first time at the Ramada Plaza Hotel.
The 29 year old’s dad Robert was a two-time winner of the recognition, while his uncle Joey earned the title eight times.
The new Milwaukee Yamaha rider edged out Rea based on a result of the award’s biggest ever online public vote by many thousands of bike racing fans after the judging panel, made up of former riders and commentators, were split down the middle on an overall winner from a short list of seven.
Thousands registered their selection via a special online poll with Dunlop capturing 26.5 per cent of the votes.
Dunlop made history in 2014 after becoming the first rider to chalk up consecutive four-timers at the Isle of Man TT and has now won 11 times on the Mountain Course since his debut in 2007.
Dunlop also won the main Superbike and Superstock events at the North West 200, the Armoy Race of Legends and the feature Superbike Race in Frohburg, Germany, setting a lap record to underline his international success and it was no surprise to see him also crowned the IFS International Road Racer of the Year last night.
Michael was only denied his hat-trick of awards by his brother William who picked up the McLean Bookmakers Race of the Year for a dramatic NW200 victory.
The 29-year-old pounced at the Juniper Chicane on the final lap to snatch victory from Michael’s grasp in one of the most exciting finishes to a Superbike race in recent history.
The race received 29 per cent of the public vote to secure the award from Dan Kneen’s breath-taking Ulster Grand Prix win in the Superstock race over Dean Harrison (21 per cent) and Glenn Irwin’s maiden British Supersport win in tricky conditions at Brands Hatch (20 per cent).
After the awards Michael commented: “It’s great to get this award finally as well as international rider of the year, many thanks to all who voted. I would like to say thanks to all my team as well.”
Motorcycle legend Tom Herron was inducted into the Beleek Hall of Fame and his widow Andrea Coleman accepted the special honour.