The fifth round of this year’s World Superbike Championship at the Imola venue saw Alvaro Bautista and Ducati’s stranglehold on the series finally ended.
Challenging times at the Ulster Grand Prix
Last week’s Ulster Grand Prix, the final International road race on the domestic calendar, was sadly overshadowed by tragedy and poor weather with the sad loss of French rider Fabrice Miguet coming soon after four other riders had lost their lives in the months of June and July.
The veteran rider succumbed to injuries sustained in a fourth lap spill at Joey’s Windmill during the opening Superstock race and whilst it was the weather that ultimately curtailed the meeting early, it was the tragic accident that left everyone downbeat once more.
Weather disrupts entire meeting
A heavy downpour on Thursday delayed the race schedule and, with fading light, the Superbike race was cancelled whilst Saturday’s forecast didn’t sound very hopeful at all. As it was, the morning dawned bright and sunny but the aforementioned accident understandably delayed proceedings and it began to put pressure on the race organisation.
Unfortunately, the rain came as predicted and only one race was run to its full distance with three being cut short and three being cancelled entirely when the rain became too heavy and the descending mist too thick.
After almost three months of warm, sunny weather it was a heart-breaking end for the hard-working club whose plans for the meeting had looked so good.
Hickman comes out on top
Despite of the heavily interrupted programme, it was Peter Hickman who was the star performer with two wins, a second and a fifth from the four races he contested and it could well have been three wins had the Superstock race not been red flagged.
Hickman and the Smiths Racing BMW team have proven to be the class acts of 2018 with race wins at all three of the International road races. Apart from a minor issue in the opening Superbike race at the TT, their finishing record has been exemplary and the Burton upon Trent rider and the team have all the attributes to rack up countless more wins in the foreseeable future.
The Padgetts Honda rider has always had excellent form around Dundrod and this year was no exception as he won the opening Supersport race which was, surprisingly, only his second International road race victory and his first since winning the Superbike race at the same venue way back in 2009.
Further podiums came in the Superstock and second Supersport races and it’s clear the Manxman has found his home with the Batley-based team with his 2018 form as good as it has been at any other stage in his career.
McLean rises to the occasion
Another rider to excel was Adam McLean, the 22-year old winning the Supertwins race – his maiden Ulster GP victory – and finishing second in the Supersport race. The youngster almost stepped back from the sport after the loss of his McAdoo Racing team-mate James Cowton at the Southern 100 but he returned at Armoy and enjoyed an excellent time at Dundrod last week.
It hasn’t been an easy time for the Tobermore youngster but, guided by his highly experienced team, and showing levels of maturity beyond his tender years, McLean is now getting the results at International level everyone knows he’s capable of.
Jordan steps up
Another rider to step up last week was Paul Jordan who grabbed his opportunity with the Dafabet Devitt Racing team with both hands. The former 125cc British Championship race winner took fourth and sixth place finishes in the two 1000cc races that took place, lapping in excess of 131mph, to more than prove he warranted the ride in what proved to be a wise decision by the team to enlist his services.
Professional job by Johnson
Another rider to have a new team at the Ulster GP was David Johnson and he too made it count with third place in the Superbike race, his maiden International road race podium. Riding the carbon-framed Tyco BMW HP4, the Australian did a thoroughly professional job for the team and can’t have done his chances of a full time ride for 2019 any harm at all.
Having started watching motorcycle races all over the world form childhood, Phil Wain has been a freelance motorcycle journalist for 15 years and is features writer for a number of publications including BikeSport News and Classic Racer, having also been a regular contributor to MCN and MCN Sport. He is PR officer for a number of teams and riders at both the British Superbike Championship and International road races, including Smiths Triumph, Quattro Plant Kawasaki, John McGuinness, Ryan Farquhar and Keith Amor. He is also heavily involved with the Isle of Man TT Races, writing official press releases and race reports as well as providing ITV4 with statistical information.