Flying McGee is Man of Tandragee
What a difference a week makes - well, weather-wise anyway - for the 59th running of the Around a Pound Tandragee 100.
After being frozen the previous week at Cookstown, on Saturday last we got sunburnt at a cracking day's racing, that was once more dominated by our talented Southern riders.
Derek McGee was once more the rider on form, taking four wins in front of a great crowd, with the only red flag of the day being shown in the Supertwin race when Adam McLean crashed chasing Derek McGee, and he was transferred to hospital in Belfast with a number of fractures.
The organising North Armagh club started the day with the Supersport 600 and it was a cracking race. Right from the start it was Derek McGee, Adam McLean, Derek Sheils and Micko Sweeney that were showing their form, and McGee had a 0.239 of a second lead over McLean, with Sheils holding off Sweeney, and the ever improving Mike Browne holding off Darryl Tweed for fifth place.
On lap three of the 5.3 mile course it was McLean who took the McAdoo Kawasaki to the front from McGee, Sheils, with Sweeney slipping off the pace, but yet still in a comfortable fourth place.
McLean held the lead until the final lap, when McGee put in the fastest lap of the race at 105.862mph to take the win by just 0.312 of a second from McLean, with Sheils third and Sweeney fourth.
Mike Browne finished in fifth place with another improving rider, Steven Proctor, in sixth. David Howard retired on lap two with a broken steering damper bracket.
The Junior Support race saw Co Clare put on the road racing map when another improving rider - Kevin Baker - took an impressive win after leading from the drop of the flag.
Rush barber Vinny Brennan was in pole position after practice, but he had no answer for the 'Banner' rider, and looked to have a steady second place but, like Cookstown the previous week, his arch rival Eoin O'Siochru caught Brennan on the final lap, after Brennan got the wrong pit board signal, and where he thought he had a comfortable lead, O'Siochru sneaked in to take second by just 2.108 seconds.
"Unfortunately for me I thought I was in a very comfortable second, but due to a mix up with my pit board signals I rolled off for the last lap only to be passed on the last lap again by my arch nemesis, Eoin O'Siochru, so third it was, not to take away his result as he was flying as a newcomer to the track," said Brennan.
The first Superbike race of the day was a repeat of Cookstown, and it was another cracking race. Derek McGee was holding court at the front of a high speed trio, from Derek Sheils and Adam McLean, with Micko Sweeney in fourth chasing very hard.
Sheils made a daring move on lap three at Marlacoo Corner to take the lead with McLean hard on his heels, and Sweeney slipping back to a steady fourth with Manx Grand Prix newcomer winner Thomas Maxwell in fifth ahead of the flying Mike Browne on his 600 Kawasaki.
By lap four McGee was back in front of Sheils and McLean, but on the final run down to Bells Crossroads and the finish line, Sheils made his move and took his second championship Superbike win in a row from McGee by just 0.456 of a second, with McLean seven seconds adrift in third despite setting the fastest lap of the race at 107.451 mph.
Micko Sweeney finished in fourth, with Shaun Anderson taking fifth on the Noel Williamson sponsored BMW in his first road race on the Swords Businessman's BMW.
"I am delighted with the way Shaun rode in his first road race on the bike, as we were only using this as a test for the TT, and he rode an excellent race" said Noel.
Guy Martin does very little road racing now, as he concentrates on his TV career and other projects that he wants to do, especially long distance cycle races.
He is just back from America after competing in an 800 mile race, but while he missed Cookstown his arrival at Tandragee was a welcome sight. He built the BSA himself and despite starting on the third row of the grid after qualifying the Lincolnshire rider was up to third after the first lap in the combined race. By lap two he was chasing the leader, Dean Stimson, with Richard Ford in third.
Martin was closing in every lap and despite setting the fastest lap of the race on the final circuit, at 90.038mph, Stimson held on to take the overall win, and the 500 class. Martin took the 1000 class from Richard Ford, while John Lee Pemberton took second in the 500 class ahead of Ken Clarke.
Barry Davidson took his career 72nd road race win in the 350 class from Tim Stephenson and Mark Johnston. Brian Mateer took the 250 class win from Philip Shaw and Ken Parkes.
The sun-kissed crowd were looking forward to another Supertwin battle, and they weren't let down. Like Cookstown, it was McGee, McLean and Sweeney who were to the fore, with Neil Kernohan, Darren Cooper and Stephen McKnight chasing hard.
At the end of lap three the same riders were holding positions, while McGee and McLean were starting to pull a slight lead on Sweeney.
Unfortunately, the red flag came out on lap four, after McLean crashed heavily. McLean was taken to hospital with fractures, but it was Sweeney who was the rider who took the praise after stopping to help the fallen McLean.
McLean's McAdoo Kawasaki race team went on twitter and said: 'A big thanks to Micko Sweeney today, he was a true gentleman and very kindly stayed with Adam in the aftermath of his crash. This means a lot, and Adam is very grateful. Thanks, Micko.'
The result was declared at the end of lap three, and as McLean was the cause of the red flag he was excluded from the result, with McGee taking the win from Sweeney, with Kernohan taking his first podium in the class. McKnight finished fourth, Darren Cooper fifth, and Shaun Anderson sixth. Vinny Brennan finished in 12th place.
Derek McGee took his third win of the day in the Moto 3 class, with his second win in as many weeks, leading from the drop of the flag, and beating his old sponsor, Gary Dunlop, by over 50 seconds, with Kevin Fitzpatrick third.
Barry Davidson made it 73 road race wins in the 300 class, while the 400 class saw Skerries rider David 'Howy' Howard in his first race of the season.
Welsh rider Paul Williams had an easy win in the 400 class but the battle behind saw Howard and Darryl Anderson locked together for the duration of the race. Howard looked to have second place on the last lap but a slight mistake from the Skerries rider, when he lost his footing on the 400 Kawasaki, and that vital seconds cost him second place.
Gareth Keys took the Forgotten Era class from Des Butler, with Duleek rider Alan Connor third on the beautiful sounding Rotary Norton.
Andy McAllister had a twelve second win in the Senior Support, but there was a great battle behind between Darryl Anderson, Kevin Baker and Darren Keys. The trio swapped places throughout, but at the flag it was Keys from Anderson, with Cookstown winner Tommy Henry, who was recovering from a bad start to take fourth ahead of Baker, with Dermot Cleary sixth.
The Around A Pound final Superbike race took a while to get going after an unusual step by the club, in sending out a rescue van before the start of the race. Once it got going it was the same trio as the first Open race, with McGee leading Sheils and Sweeney.
This battle was a cracking race, and this time Sweeney wasn't shaken off and he was locked into the fierce battle. McGee led for the first four laps, but he was overtaken by Sheils, who admitted after the race that he showed his hand too early, as McGee set the fastest lap of the race on the final circuit at 107.039mph to take his fourth win of the day, by just 0.624 of a second, with Sweeney in third.
Thomas Maxwell had another fine race finishing fourth, with Shaun Anderson taking his second fifth place, and Mike Browne finishing the best 600 of the race in 6th place.
Another cracking day's racing, and well done to all the riders for putting in a fine display.
Keep 'er lit!