'Mullingar Missile' arrives with a real bang
The Principal Insurances Race of the South took place last weekend, organised by the Fore Motor Cycle Racing Club.
While the road racing community were getting to grips with the tragedy at Skerries, there was another serious accident in the Isle of Man that saw one of the top road racers from the UK, James Cowton, lose his life in a pile-up at the final day of the Southern 100 last Thursday.
Cowton was racing for the Cookstown McAdoo Racing Team and was one of the top riders in both the 600 and 650 class and a regular winner on the Irish roads, and also at international level.
It was the second last race of the four-day event, and the rest of the programme was abandoned.
Derek Sheils decided to sit out Walderstown, but there was a great turnout of both riders and spectators. The excellent weather that we have become accustomed to recently was still in place on Saturday for practice and qualifying, but things changed for race day on Sunday. Rain fell for most of the day, but it didn't dampen either the riders' or the fans' spirits.
Derek McGee didn't race at Skerries on Sunday race day, as he was sponsored by the Dunlop-owned Joey's Bar race team in the Moto 3 class, and while he was in excellent form at Enniskillen, taking five wins from five starts, he was back on the grid at his home race.
Derek McGee arrived on the road race scene in 2011 at Walderstown for his first-ever road race and he competed in the Senior Support Class that day, taking two wins. The newly named 'Mullingar Missile' had arrived with a bang.
Once more he dominated all his races, and despite blowing up his 600 in untimed practice he got the loan of a bike from James Chawke and put the bike on pole position for the class.
After qualifying on Saturday evening there were two races, the Junior Support (non-championship) and a non-qualifiers race. There was a cracking battle at the front of the Support race and it went down to the last lap, when Barry Sheehan took the win from Ray Sheeran by just 0.890 of a second, with newcomer Michael Gillen taking third on the line from Liam Chawke for the last podium place.
The non-qualifiers' race was another great battle, with Thomas Molloy cutting through the field from the second group to take the win on the roads on the last lap from the vastly experienced RJ Woolsey, with Dominic Cottrell third. Lusk rider Darren O'Rourke finished in sixth place in only his second outing of the year.
Racing on Sunday started on time, and the Clerk of the Course gave the riders another full session of practice to get used to the wet roads, and the first race of the day was the Open Superbike race.
Derek McGee was straight out of the blocks and took the lead before the end of the first lap, and he was never caught.
It was the best Newcomer at both the TT and Southern 100, Davy Todd, who chased the local rider home, and McGee was given a tremendous reception by the large crowd.
Thomas Maxwell is another local rider who has not had the rub of the green over the past few years, suffering from both bad luck and a shortage of money, but he showed his true talent on his Kawasaki, taking a fine third place ahead of Micko Sweeney.
William Hara was in excellent form in the Senior Support race, and he and Wayne Sheehan were locked together for the six laps, and at the flag it was Hara by just 0.735 of a second from Sheehan, with veteran John Cahill, who was presented with a special award by the promoting club in recognition of his 30 years in road racing, finishing third.
The 400 Supersport race saw Irish Championship leader Daryl Tweed get the loan of a bike from his friend Daryl Anderson, and he duly took the win to increase his championship lead.
Stephen Morrison and Scottish teenager Gillian McGaw were locked together for the last two laps, and it was Morrison who took second after McGaw, who was competing in her first road race, crashed out at the final corner. Brian Loughlin took third.
After the race there was a protest, and as we go to press I am not aware of the outcome, but the awards were not presented, and this leaves me to believe that there is going to be an appeal on the outcome of the protest.
Barry Davidson took the 350 Classic race with ease, after the Honda of Ed Manly struck clutch trouble in the second lap. The Ashbourne rider struggle to the finish in second place, and he was followed home by his Ashbourne neighbour Herbie Ronan. Sean Leonard hadn't one of his best days in the race, slipping back to take sixth place. Brian Mateer has been in top form in the 250 Classic class, and he took the win from Richard Ford by just 0.236 of a second, with Phillip Shaw taking third.
Derek McGee took the 600 race by the scruff of the neck, and despite having the loan of a bike he dominated the race, with Todd once more in pursuit. Todd just couldn't keep up with the local rider and he finished in second place, nearly seven seconds adrift.
Thomas Maxwell was lying third, but at the hairpin on lap 4 his bad luck returned and he slipped off, uninjured, and this left Kevin Fitzpatrick in to take his best ever result in an open 600 race.
Micko Sweeney slipped back on the final lap as Daryl Tweed came from the second group to take fourth place, with the Skerries rider fifth.
Liam Chawke made it a great weekend for the Limerick brothers, taking a brilliant win in the second Junior Support. After taking fourth on Saturday evening, the wet track suited the Rathkeale rider, and he was 2.148 seconds ahead of Daryl Anderson, with Michael Gibbons bettering his fifth place in race one to finish on the final podium place. Ashbourne rider Aaron Hatch has just returned to racing after a two year lay-off, and he took a fine sixth place.
The Senior Classic race was red-flagged at the end of two laps, after Gary Jamison crashed on the tricky Mount Bellew section of the course. The Belfast rider was transferred to hospital in Tullamore for observation.
The restart saw a cracking battle between fierce rivals Ed Manly and Barry Davidson, and the pair were locked together for the full race. Manly had the lead as they left on the last lap, but it was Davidson who made a daring manoeuvre at the hairpin to take the lead and he kept it to the flag to secure a brilliant double for the Cullybackey rider. English rider John Lee Pemberton took third.
Robert McCrumb took the 1,000 cc Classic Race with ease after his closest rival Richard Ford retired on lap two. Phillip Shaw took second, with Trevor Stewart third.
McGee notched up his hat-trick in the Supertwin race, on the Kawasaki that he took to second place at the TT, and once more it was Todd who was the bridesmaid, over 13 seconds adrift, with James Chawke scoring his best ever open twin result in third place.
Wayne Sheehan made up for his second place in the first Senior Support race when he took the win in the non-championship second race, when he led John Cahill home by over seven seconds, with Daryl Anderson taking a fine third place, just ahead of Liam Chawke.
The Grand Final riders came to the grid and the rain had stopped, but despite this the riders were almost all on full wet tyres.
It was Davy Todd who led away, but McGee quickly took the lead. This time Todd stuck with him for the first half of the race, but McGee put in the first 100mph lap of the day on the fourth lap to break the tow.
Todd tried to stick with McGee, but the Burrows Engineering Suzuki was having handling problems and Todd settled for another second place. Thomas Maxwell didn't let the earlier crash deter him, and he came home in an excellent third place. Micko Sweeney retired on the second lap.
Derek McGee took the two special awards for the fastest laps in both the Open Superbike race and the 600, and he also took home the Man of the Meeting Award.
Racing was finished at 4.20, with the presentation all finished at 5.15. A good day was required after all the recent happenings, and thankfully the day was well run, and enjoyable.
Keep 'er lit!