OVER the past few years the local contingent heading for the 'Isle of Man had been very strong, and with great success too. Next year another of the locals is planning the trip, and for David 'Howey' Howard it's a trip that he is relishing.
The 33-year-old Skerries truck driver with Pacon Waste spent the Manx Grand Prix this year helping his great mate Micko Sweeney, and in the process trying to learn the trying 37.75-mile Mountain Course. David Howard is one of two brothers from Skerries who compete in the Irish Road Race Championship, and while his brother Damien has taken time off to concentrate on his new job, David has just finished his sixth season on the roads. It has been one of his best ever, finishing third in the Southern Centre and sixth in the Irish Championship, and it could have been much better only for a major engine blow-up at Killalane.
David was no different to most of the local youths, and as a young lad he would be taken on the bar of his father's bike to watch the famous Skerries 100. The bug was always there, and despite a road bike never having been in the family, he was determined to rectify this. At 19 he bought a Honda 125 MX bike, and despite not knowing how to ride, he wasn't going to let that get in his way. Gaining knowledge on the art of riding a bike, he purchased a CBR 600 Pre '97 Honda, and along with his brother Damien and friend Gareth Costello, the trio embarked on track days at Kirkistown in 2003.
'I really enjoyed riding the 600 and we went to Mondello to compete in our first race, but when we got there my bike wouldn't start, and I was lucky enough to get a loan of a bike from Derek Costello, and away I went. It was great,' said David. For the 2004 season the same bike was kept, but like so many road racers at the time, an old '89 Transit was purchased to transport David around the race tracks of the country.
"I was enjoying the craic, but I came down to earth with my first crash in the second race at Mondello, but it was in the wet so it wasn't too bad. I do enjoy racing in the wet, as I find that it brings everyone down to the same level.' For the following season, an R6 Yamaha was purchased from John Donnan, and David found the new 600 easier to ride, especially with more up to date equipment on board, compared to the Pre '97. Later on in the season, there was a change of plan, when the R6 was replaced with a more modern one that was crashed at the Manx Grand Prix by another local rider. Declan Lynch.
This was kept for the '06 season, and the delighted Skerries rider got his road race licence in time for the Kells Road Race. 'I was really excited and I rode in the Junior Support Class, and the road racing bug had bitten,' said David. Towards the end of the '06 season, a new sponsor in the form of former Skerries native Moss Coleman, who had his Painting Contracting business in London, came on board and purchased a SV650 Suzuki, again from Declan Lynch. Talk about keeping it local! After the shock of the death of his great hero Darren Lindsay at Killalane, the first outing on the new bike saw 'Howey' take his first podium at Tullyallen, in a race that was won by Leo Fitzgerald from Stephen O'Brien, who were both contesting the Irish Championship that year.
'I was really delighted with the result, especially the first time on the bike, and I found the twin a lovely bike to ride,' said David. After the glory in the last race of the season in 2006, the '07 season beckoned with the twin and the 600 for the Junior and Senior Support Championship - and this was going to be a big year for the Skerries rider in more ways than one. The childhood dream was about to be realised at Skerries, when he took to the line for the first time. 'This was my dream come true. While I did race at Killalane the previous year, Skerries was the pinnacle of what I started out to do, and it was here. 'I really enjoyed every minute of the day, and it will stand in my memory for a long time to come.' When I asked David about the slagging that he would get from his mates, especially about being a local racing on his local course, he replied: 'I don't worry about them, I just go out and do my own thing and I don't worry about anyone and what theysay.'
The old saying 'Childhood Sweethearts' was definitely to the fore as the '07 season came to an end. Two days before Killalane, 'Howey' and his childhood sweetheart of 15 years, Emma Coleman, were married in Skerries. With the honeymoon put on hold until after the racing, the newlyweds prepared for the last race of the season. 'I was out in the Junior Support race earlier in the day, and my last race, the Senior Support, was the penultimate race of the day. 'We were sweating, as we had a car waiting at the paddock gate to take us to the airport for our honeymoon flight. With two laps to go, I came around Schoolhouse corner, and I went very wide and onto the grass, and nearly crashed. 'Emma was watching from the pits and all she said was "Ah no, no honeymoon'.
'We were alright, though. I managed to keep the bike upright and finish the race, and we were off to the airport, problem solved!' In 2008, a new 750 Suzuki and a new Twin were provided by Moss Coleman, and David won his first race on the twin at Kirkistown. 'I was really delighted to get the win, especially for Moss, who had ploughed so much money into the new bikes, but unfortunately no more wins came after that.' A new arrival in the form of son Reece in 2009 saw the Howard family extend to four, and along with daughter Keeva the family were still taking to the roads week in, week out. Again in 2012, Moss Coleman was a great support to Howey, and the businessman purchased two R6 Yamahas for David and his brother Damien. 'Damo' also had an R1 Yamaha supplied by a local consortium, and Howey had a twin to go with the 600. An excellent third place at Kells was followed up with a third place at Killalane, and coupled with his other results, Howey finished third in the Southern Centre Championship.
The 2011 season saw David lock horns in the Irish Championship with his neighbour and close friend David 'Yomo' Yeomans all season long, and with Englishman Dean Harrison coming into the mix, it was a great season. All year the trio were at it hammer and tongs, but the better speed of Yomo's 250 Honda saw him take the Irish Championship, with Harrison second and Howey third.
All season David was never out of the top four. 'It was a great year, and I really enjoyed it, especially with 'Yomo' and Harrison, and I also finished third in the Southern Centre Championship.' Like the rest of the race paddock this year, Howey cut back, and started the season with just the 650, but by the time Skerries came along, he had the loan of a 400 Honda from Balbriggan rider Mark Gaffney. 'The results on the 400 were good, and after a second place at Skerries, this was followed by a third at Walderstown and another second at Armoy. The season was spoiled with an engine blow-up at Killalane, though, and that cost the Skerries rider second place in the Southern Centre Championship. Still, a third place was well received, along with a sixth place in the Irish Championship, despite missing two rounds.
Towards the end of the season, David and family travelled to the Island for two reasons. The first was to help his great friend Micko Sweeney, and more importantly to learn the testing Mountain Course. 'I hope to ride a 400 and either a twin or a 600 at the Manx. It is hard work learning the course and preparing bikes, but I really love the Island and I am looking forward to racing there. I know it will take a lot of money, but I hope to have my fund-raising done early, and I am hoping to have a Christmas raffle to start me off.' David Howard knows the Island will take time to learn, and he is prepared for that, and I am sure that the experience that he has gained over the past number of years will stand to him. With the help of his wife Emma, and his family he will be on the starting line on Glencrutchery Road come next August.
Like all road racers David would like to thank the following for all their help over the years, namely Emma and his family, especially his mum Linda and dad Patch. He also acknowledged his faithful sponsor Moss Coleman, without whom he would not be where he is at the moment, and a sponsor that he is really proud to have, together with Richie Reid, Declan Lynch, David 'Coco' Coleman, Mick Farrell, Aidan Bolger, Mark Gaffney and Micko Sweeney.