After a long, long winter, race action returns to the Irish roads scene this weekend, at the KDM Hire Cookstown 100, which has attracted a truly star studied entry list.
For many, the main highlight of the weekend’s competition, will be seeing 15 times TT winner Michael Dunlop, make his Tyco BMW race debut.
Photo by Jimmy Graham
One of the all time great exponents of BMW Motorrad machinery, there’s no doubt about the potential of the all star partnership.
A multiple times Cookstown race winner, he’s certain to be in contention for more success on the Orritor Circuit on Saturday, same applies to reigning feature race champion, Derek Sheils.
Photo by Rod Neill
Unbeatable in recent years, aboard Superbike machinery, the BE Racing rider, who will jockey a Penz 13 BMW steed at TT 2018, will be keen to showcase his proven world class quality, against the likes of new Tyco BMW signing, Dunlop.
Outside of Sheils and Mountain Course lap record holder Dunlop, Mullingar’s Derek McGee, is another capable of various race wins over the weekend.
In particular the reigning Irish road race Superbike champion, progress aboard his new KMR Kawasaki twin, will be monitored closely by many, including TT 2018 team mates, Peter Hickman and Danny Webb.
Temple Golf Club Yamaha’s William Dunlop, fresh from gaining track time a plenty at the opening rounds of the British Superbike Championship, is confident he has the machinery this season, to take him to the next level on the roads.
Boosted the support of ex Mar Train Racing team manager Tim Martin, the Ballymoney racer is another heading into competition on the Orritor course, with the aim firmly being contending for Open, Supersport, Grand Final victories.
Same applies to rising star Adam McLean, who finished an excellent third in the second round of the National 600 Superstock Championship.
Part this year of the vastly successful McAdoo Kawasaki set up, the Tobermore is considered by many, one of the most talented Irish road racers, to emerge in the modern era.
Photo by Rod Neill
A race winner last year at Cookstown, it would not at all be a surprise, to see him scoop multiple class wins on Saturday, as he pilots alongside the Supersport/Superstock McAdoo Kawasaki’s, the Mark Hanna Motors backed ER6 Kawasaki, plus a Moto 3 Honda, within the 125/Moto 3 race.
McAdoo Kawasaki team mate James Cowton, twice Junior Manx GP champion Michael Sweeney, Paul Jordan and reigning Irish road race Junior/Senior Support champion Joe Loughlin, are others that cannot be discounted, from scoring race wins.
Photo by Rod Neill
Additional rising roads stars entered, include former TT Privateers champion Dan Cooper, WH Racing’s Dominic Herbertson, Barry Evans, Logan Racing’s Neil Kernohan, Kris Duncan, prospective TT newcomer Adam Lyon, Shaun Anderson, Melissa Kennedy and ECTA Racing’s Mike Norbury.
Experienced Irish roads stalwarts, Cookstown bound, include Davy Morgan, Seamus Elliott, Barry Davidson, Robert McCrum, Kevin Fitzpatrick Paul Robinson, Nigel Moore and Maria Costello MBE.
Not forgetting high profile anticipated event returnee Guy Martin, who will be in action in the Classics race, aboard his in house built BSA.
Overseas stars returning to tackle the Orritor course, include Michal Dokoupil, Roger Chen, seasoned IRRC (International Road Racing Championship) competitor Vassilios Takos, and fellow countryman Matthias Winkleholm.
High profile newcomers to keep an eye on include Cookstown BE Racing’s Davey Todd, Lightweight Manx GP winner Darren Cooper, part this year of the Noel Williamson Racing set up, Canada’s Mel Gantly, eight times Sidecar TT winner Dan Sayle, Owen Graves, Morgan Govignon, Austria’s Christopher Eder and talented New Zealand racer Daniel Mettam.
In spite of increased at times negativity about the sport on social media, there’s a definite buzz about the start of one of the most anticipated UK roads seasons, in history.
Photo by Baylon McCaughey
Expect racing of the highest quality at Cookstown, as TT winners, multi Irish champions, hungry next generation racers, event stalwarts and enthusiastic newcomers, aim to kick off their 2018 roads campaigns, in fine style.
Words by Stevie Rial