Clouds have silver lining as Skerries duo clinch crowns
THE Faugheen road races were back on the Irish road race calendar at the weekend for the first time in five years, and again Manx rider Dan Kneen stole the show.
The weather was decidedly mixed, and while there were some heavy downpours, the decisions by Clerk of the Course Sean Bissett to stop some races and re-run them under better conditions paid off, with some excellent battles and a new lap record in the Supertwin class.
There was great local success, with Micko Sweeney clinching the Irish 250 Championship, and another Skerries rider David 'Howy' Howard clinching the Irish 400 Championship.
After practising and qualifying on Saturday, the riders were delighted - for the first time in a number of Southern meetings - to have timed practice, and plenty of it. The organising Faugheen 50 Motor Cycle Club held the non-championship Senior Support race on Saturday evening, and what a cracking race it turned out to be.
Right from the off it was a three-way battle between Thomas Maxwell, Noel Carroll and Graham Kennedy, who battled it out all the way to the flag, swapping places over the eight lap race on the tight and twisty 2.2 mile course.
As the trio went out on the final circuit Graham Kennedy held a slender lead, and he kept up the pace to take his first road race win by just 0.349 of a second over Thomas Maxwell, who in turn denied Noel Carroll on the final lap, finishing just 0.960 ahead of Carroll, despite setting the fastest lap on lap five at 93.990 mph. Derek Costello finished in 7th place, with Noel Bertram 10th.
The Open Championship race started, but was red flagged just as quickly as the heavens opened once more, and when the rain died down the Senior Support Championship was brought to the grid. Like the non championship race on Saturday, this was another cracker.
Neil Lyons took the lead from Thomas Maxwell and Graham Kennedy, but he was overtaken on lap two by Brendan Merrigan. The top four riders held court until three laps to go, when Kennedy took third from Merrigan, but on the final lap Maxwell and Kennedy, who recorded the fastest lap of the race at 96.688mph, both passed Lyons, with Maxwell taking his second win of the season. He was just 0.477 of a second ahead of Kennedy, with Lyons taking the final step of the podium, and it was also enough to give him the Irish Championship. Derek Costello finished in 10th place, with Derek Scuffil failing to complete lap one.
I have watched Dan Kneen really sandbag in some of the races and come good in the Grand Final, but there was no stopping him in the re run of the Open race, when he literally broke the rest of the riders' tow after three laps, and with a speed of 103.620 he finished the race nearly six seconds in front of a battle that saw Derek Sheils fend off Micko Sweeney's late charge for runner up, with Sweeney third. That was Kneen's fourth victory in the Superbike class this year, and the Manx rider clinched the Irish Championship, to add to his Ulster Championship at Armoy.
The 250/400 Junior race was red flagged on lap two, and it wasn't the weather that was the cause. As James Kelly tried to catch the flying Micko Sweeney, he crashed out and was taken to hospital with a number of fractures.
In the re run, Micko Sweeney took control, setting the fastest lap of the race at 92.883mph, and this was enough to give the Skerries rider a win by 1.854 seconds over his championship rival John Ella, with Sam Dunlop taking third. That win saw Sweeney take the Irish Championship, with Killalane still to run.
In the 400 class, David 'Howy' Howard had to come from behind to take his fourth win of the season, when he beat Mark Sheils by just 0.616 of a second, with Scottish rider Vic Allen third. Following on from Sweeney, Howard made it a one-two of Irish Championships for the Skerries mates, and they deserved all the credits that they were given by the fans.
Philip Shaw was crowned Irish and Ulster Champion after Armoy, but this didn't stop the English rider from taking another success in the 250 Classic race, where he beat Richard Ford and Gary Hutton.
Barry Davidson is due to become a dad over the next few weeks, but like Shaw he had both Irish and Ulster Championships sown up at Armoy, and he beat Ed Manly by almost twelve seconds to take the 350 class, with Herbie Ronan taking third.
As has been the case all year, the 600 Supersport proved to be a cracker. Derek McGee led for the first two laps, with Dan Kneen and Micko Sweeney in hot pursuit, but on lap three McGee made a mistake and ended up a slip road, letting in Kneen, and he rejoined the race in fourth, behind Sweeney and Seamus Elliott.
As the race wore on, Mc Gee was on a charge, and on lap six he put in the fastest lap of the race at 101.146, but it was only enough to get by Sweeney and Elliott, to take second just 1.774 seconds behind Dan Kneen. Micko Sweeney took third.
The Junior Support was another race red flagged owing to the weather, but in the restart it was the season's rising star Neil Kernohan who took the race by storm, and despite the championship leaders Derek Costello and Sean Connolly in the race, it didn't bother the Ballymena rider, and he took the win by almost seven seconds on his 250 Honda, with Derek Wilson taking second place on the last lap from Melvyn Hollingsworth.
Derek Costello finished in fourth place, and he now has a 14 point lead in the championship over Connolly, who finished in fifth place, with only Killalane to go. Naul rider Noel Bertram must feel very aggrieved, as he was leading the first part of the race when it was red flagged, and in the restart he got a terrible start, and had to settle for 6th.
The 500 Classic race saw Mark Connolly take the win from Sean Henry, with Kevin Callan third. It was Connolly's first win on the Norton. In the 1000 class, Robert McCrumb took his traditional class win, with a 10-second victory over English rider Richard Ford, with John Scott third.
The Supertwin was without the standout race of the weekend, with the lap record broken in five successive laps. There were five riders in contention the whole way through, with McGee, Sweeney, Kneen, John Walsh, and English rider Conor Behan in the mix. At the flag McGee had the final say with a lap record of 96.850mph, with Kneen second, Sweeney third, and Conor Behan just getting the better of John Walsh at the flag. All five riders were inside the lap record. Derek Costello finished in 10th place, with Noel Bertram 11th and Mark Sheils 12th.
The 125 race was red flagged on lap two after Neil Kernohan crashed exiting Faugheen village, and he was able to get into the medical car, thankfully unhurt. In the re run, the battle was between Sam Dunlop and Nigel Moore, and they were side by side for the whole race, and they put on a tremendous battle, with Dunlop just 0.156 of a second in front at the flag. Moore was a long way in front of the third place rider William Cowden.
With only one race left at Killalane, Moore has a 1½-point lead over Dunlop in the championship, with Cowden out of the hunt in third. Seamus Elliott was the only finisher in the Moto 3 class.
As the riders lined up for the Grand Final Micko Sweeney was just three points in front of Dan Kneen for the Man of the Meeting award, but out of the blocks came Kneen to lead from the front. Piling on the pressure he put in the fastest lap of the meeting on lap four at 104.754 to take his 6th Grand Final this season, with Derek Sheils 3.752 seconds back in second. Micko Sweeney got the better of a great battle with John Walsh to take third.
Kneen was Man of the Meeting, and he also had the fastest lap of the meeting, and Derek Sheils took the special award for the fastest lap by a Southern rider.
Overall it was a good meeting despite the weather, and hopefully this will see this old race back in the calendar again next season, and for years to come.