The real road season roared back into life at the weekend with the Tandragee 100 road races taking place in North Ireland and the Bob Smith Spring Cup at Oliver’s Mount, Scarborough – and the usual suspects were all back out in force as well as a certain Mr Guy Martin.
Harrison reigns supreme:
Dean Harrison won close to 30 races at Oliver’s Mount in 2016 and his dominance of the 2.43-mile woodland circuit showed no signs of ending at the weekend with a perfect seven wins from seven starts.
Continuing with the Silicone Engineering Kawasaki team he rode for in 2016, the Bradford rider led most of the races from start to finish but in the two Superbike races he didn’t, he really proved his worth. Moving from fourth to first in both races, Harrison had to contend with the considerable talents of Dan Hegarty, Ivan Lintin, Lee Johnston, Daley Mathison and Jamie Coward but despite it being the first race meeting of the year, he got to within a tenth of a second of Guy Martin’s outright lap record set in 2013.
The circuit is never at its best in April, mainly due to a lack of grip, whilst the riders themselves normally use the meeting to dial themselves back into racing. But, due to the competition and equal nature of the riders and machines, all of the leading pack were setting a red hot pace at the weekend which bodes well for all of them when it comes to the International road races, which get underway next month at the North West 200. And having had such a strong season in 2016, Harrison will certainly be looking for more International race wins in the season ahead.
Challenging return for Martin:
Guy Martin made his much heralded return to racing at the weekend with his first outing at the Tandragee 100 since 2005. However, riding his Superstock-spec Honda he only got one and a half miles into the first lap of the Open race when he crashed out, taking Paul Jordan with him.
Rain brought the meeting to an early end so he missed out on the Grand Final and that led to him taking an overnight boat to Scarborough as he sought to get both more miles on the bike and another signature for his Mountain Course licence, required by all competitors at the Isle of Man TT. This he duly got but he had to start from the back of the field for the Senior race and could only get as high as 12th as he suffered with electronic issues.
Desperate for track time after his 18-month lay-off, the Lincolnshire rider come TV personality is looking to get back to being bike fit, and sharp, and iron out the teething problems with the new Fireblade. A two-day test was scheduled for Castle Combe this week with him due to be contesting the Superstock race at the Oulton Park BSB meeting over the Bank Holiday as well with the NW200 now less than two weeks away.
Sheils and McGee star:
Before the rains came at Tandragee, the Open and Supersport races did take place with the victories going to Derek Sheils and Derek McGee respectively.
Southern Ireland’s Sheils has proven to be the man to beat in the Superbike class at the National road races and he dominated proceedings, eventually taking the win by over 14 seconds from William Dunlop. Sheils’ fellow countryman McGee was equally successful in the 600cc race with Dunlop – whose ride with the Halsall Racing team looks to have fallen through – again in second.
Sheils and McGee will be hoping to make a greater impression at the Internationals this year whilst the duo, and Martin and Dunlop, will again be in action at this weekend’s Cookstown 100, the next stop on the Irish racing calendar.
Everyone at Devitt Insurance sends their condolences to the family and friends of Dario Cecconi who sadly lost his life after a crash at the Tandragee 100 road races.
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.