Noel is relishing return to racing
Last June was a month that Swords businessman Noel Williamson will never forget after his sponsored rider Alan Bonner was tragically killed during the qualifying for the Senior TT.
This left Noel shell-shocked, so much so that he decided to sell the bike, and give up his involvement in racing, although he still attended racing, and decided to go back to the Isle of Man to spectate at the Manx Grand Prix.
It was during this visit that he met Darren Cooper, who had just won the Lightweight race, beating Skerries rider Andy Farrell into the bargain. Noel struck up a conversation with Darren, and said that he would think about his future.
After a lot of soul-searching, Noel Williamson Racing will be back in action for 2018, when they will have the services of Darren Cooper, who won the Lightweight Manx Grand Prix last season and also finished second in the Junior race, and ninth in the Senior.
The 37-year-old Preston rider is involved in the building trade, and is the owner of several bars. He first started on a road bike at 16, but a trip to the Manx Grand Prix in 1998 saw him knocked off his bike and injured.
'The money I got from the crash saw me get a race bike, a car and trailer, leathers, boots and a helmet, and that was the start of my racing,' said Darren
Early in his career, Darren raced and scored points in British Supersport, and then decided to concentrate on setting up his businesses.
'I came back with a little more money as I felt I had a sensible head on my shoulders, and I would like to think I have lost the recklessness, and I raced in the Newcomers Manx in 2015, where I finished third, and I also posted the fastest lap in the Junior race. The following year I had a fourth in the Twin race and a seventh place in the Senior, and last year I had a first and a second.
'I am lucky that I live close to Blackpool Airport, and I used to fly to the Isle of Man on a Saturday morning, hire a car and do as many laps as I could, fly back on Saturday night at a cost of just £120 all in, and I would also take an Enduro bike over to learn on it.
'I have had a lot of help from Paul Owen, as well as a mate Kiaran Hankin who has also helped me out, and I suppose the will to learn is what I feel is so important.
'I don't seem to know what it is, as academically I am rubbish. Like, if you asked me to pass an A level I would be crap at it, but learning race circuits I seem to be good at it.
'I did Skerries last year and finished second to Joe Loughlin, and we were both under the old lap record, and that was on a twin. I just love it. I also did Kells the year before, but didn't race as the meeting was called off after practice. Again I was second on the grid, with my lap times good enough for the top three in the national races. I feel good enough to take the challenge, and I am really looking forward to the coming season.'
Darren will also bring his own 600 and 650 Kawasakis to the team and Noel Williamson will be providing a new BMW 1,000 Superstock for the talented rider.
'I am looking forward to being back racing this year and having Darren on board. Darren certainly knows his way around the Island and it should be a very interesting year. He will have the new BMW S1000RR for the season, where we will be racing at most of the Irish national races, as well as the NW200, IoM TT and Ulster GP,' said Noel.
'We hope to attend the Southern 100 and the Scarborough meetings also. I watched Darren at Skerries and at the Manx last year, and I was very impressed with his riding and attitude. In January this year we made the decision to race again. Darren is a very fast rider and we have the right team built around him. He could certainly be one to watch.
'I am delighted also to see him race on the Irish roads, where I feel that he will give an excellent account of himself. It will also be great for the fans to see a rider of his talent coming over, and I am really looking forward to seeing the bikes out on the roads this year.
'The team are delighted to have the following sponsors on board; NWP Ltd, MJ Davidson Groundworks, P&SL Haulage, Brophy 22 Crane Hire, LIFELOCKEDIN, FLUE-STOX and JMC.'
I am sure that Darren will be a bright light on the Irish roads this season, and with another rising English rider Davy Todd riding for John Burrows this season, it will be interesting to see how these 'visiting' riders will get on.
Keep 'er lit!