The 2023 Irish road racing season kick-started in top fashion today at Cookstown, with exhilarating action across sun drenched qualifying, opening races.
Backing up the form that has already yielded this year Enkalon Trophy success, BE/RK Racing’s Michael Browne vaulted to overall Supersport qualifying honours, finishing 1.428 seconds quicker than 21 times TT winner Michael Dunlop.
112 times Irish road race winner Dunlop would go onto secure Super Twins pole position whilst Superbike qualifying saw the international roads legend, piloting the Hawk Racing Honda finish a modest third fastest.
Outpacing Dunlop were Martin Jones Racing’s Michael Sweeney and last-minute entry addition, Derek Sheils.
2019 Superbike Classic TT runner-up Sheils, astride his trusty Roadhouse Macau BMW steed, wasn’t a million miles away from record breaking pace, recording an impressive best lap time of 1 minute 23.357 seconds.
Fellow countryman, the aforementioned Browne sped to 125/Moto 3 qualifying success whilst Barry Davidson, nearing the 100 Irish road race wins mark, headed the Supersport 300, Junior 250, Junior 350 Classics categories.
Darryl Tweed topped the Lightweight Supersport fraternity, Andy Hornby took command in the Senior Classics field whilst Junior Support, Senior Support qualifying triumphs went respectively to pure road racing first-timer Aaron Spence and Anthony O’Carroll.
97 plate holder O’Carroll’s grabbed Senior Support pole after overhauling in late session stages, long term provisional pole-sitter Dean Lacey.
Post qualifying, this evening’s races proved in particular prosperous for Michael Gillan, claiming Supersport B, Open B-race victories.
Liam Chawke, Dermot Cleary, the Isle of Wight’s Ryan Whitehall, Wilson Craig Racing’s Matt Rees all accumulated podium finishes in above showcased races.
Via aggregate timing, Senior Support B race spoils went to Darragh Trappe, finishing 0.707 in front of Lee Osprey, who in turn was only 0.145 further clear of eventual third place finisher, Mick Hogan.
The weather forecast for Cookstown tomorrow is erm, interesting to say the least!
No matter what the weather brings though, expect more fascinating competition at Irish road racing’s longest running event.
Photo credit: Tommy Vennard
Words by Stevie Rial #dontletfearcontrolyou