A chance meeting with Mid Ulster DUP MLA Keith Buchanan gave Coagh biker and MCUI Race Marshal John Hagan the opportunity to meet Double World Superbike Champion Jonathan Rea at a gala event held at Stormont on Monday.
The event hosted by Paul Girvan MLA saw the Stormont Assembly members and members of the biking community turning out to mark the successes achieved by back to back WSB Champion from Northern Ireland.
“There had been quite a bit of chat on line among the race community and the general consensus was that Stormont wouldn’t recognise Jonathan Rea’s successes," said John Hagan. "The feeling was more emphasis is put on soccer, rugby and Gaelic games - motorcycle racing is a bit politically incorrect due to the nature of the injuries incurred when it all goes wrong.
“I decided to take the bull by the horns and I wrote to Keith Buchanan pointing out that Jonathan is an excellent sporting ambassador for Northern Ireland; he is a great role model for many of the local riders especially the younger guys just starting out on their racing career.
“I wasn’t expecting a reply and I thought that’s it, but at least I did my part to bring it to the attention of a MLA in that we have a biking world champion from the Province. A few days later I bumped into Keith and to my surprise he told me that plans were being put in place to mark Jonathan’s successes.
“I was told initially that the event was for MLA’s only and Jonathan’s race team, and I was really glad to hear that Stormont was recognising the Kawasaki rider’s achievements. I was more surprised when Keith phoned me to say he had put my name down to attend. This was something I had never expected to happen. And the chance of meeting Jonathan Rea is a once in a lifetime opportunity for me.
“From round three in 2015 Jonathan Rea has led the world with two consecutive World Superbike titles, 25 rounds, 52 races, 23 wins, 16 second places and 7 third places its only right that Stormont recognises these successes, and hopefully he will become the first rider to make it three WSB titles in a row. This was a very proud day for me and it was great to see John Burrows and Kenny Loughran there representing the local race fraternity.”