Saturday 24 August 2019

Titles tumble to the kings of Munster

Derek Sheils (centre) is congratulated by Ray Casey #55 and Micko Sweeney #65 after winning the Grand Final at Munster and also the Irish Superbike championship. Photo Adam McMahon
Derek Sheils (centre) is congratulated by Ray Casey #55 and Micko Sweeney #65 after winning the Grand Final at Munster and also the Irish Superbike championship. Photo Adam McMahon

Jack Corry - Corry Corner

There is no doubt in my mind that the Irish road race calendar has to change.

Because of last weekend's action in Cork, some riders have been racing for seven weeks on the bounce, and as a result the re-kindling of the Munster 100 saw just over 40 entries, the worst of the season.

With the Ulster Grand Prix just a few days away, and the big classic event at Bishopscourt clashing, it definitely didn't help the situation.

The last time that road racing was held in Cork was 2013 at Glanmire over a new three-mile course, and then racing had to be abandoned owing to the heavy rain. Practice for this year's event was controlled owing to rain, but for racing there were only two showers that disrupted just one race.

There was great local success, with two Skerries riders, David ' Howy' Howard and Micko Sweeney both winning Irish Championships (400 and Supertwin) and there was also success for Rush barber Vinny Brennan, who added the Junior Support Irish Championship to the Ulster Centre one that he clinched at Armoy the previous week.

Donal Arnold is the PRO for the Cork Motorcycle Racing and Vintage Club and he gave a flavour of the weekend's events, saying: 'In what may have been the most talked-about road racing meeting of late, the Munster 100 made a dramatic, exhausting and enthralling return to the road racing calendar over the August bank holiday weekend.

'The main talking points had to have been Derek Sheils' continued dominance in the big bike class as he made it nine National Superbike races this season, as well as securing victory in the Carole Nash Grand Final.

'The other story of the day had to be Skerries man Micko Sweeney, who claimed his first Irish National Championship by dominating the Supertwins class.

'On Saturday morning the sun shone favourably on the Glanmire track, but once the first Open practice session got under way the rain came to dampen the optimistic spirits of the large Cork contingent.

'As the weather deteriorated the decision was made to declare the practice sessions as non-timed so riders could best familiarise themselves with the track.

'On Sunday morning, as the clouds began to clear to reveal blue skies, the race's proposed schedule took a different shape at riders' briefing as Clerk of the Course Sean Bissett shuffled the order in light of forecasted inclement weather.

'At 10:10 the Munster 100 Open Championship race got under way and the man of the moment, Derek Sheils, shone through to clinch victory from Sweeney by four seconds and Mullingar man Thomas Maxwell rounded out the podium positions.

'The victory meant Sheils has now secured both Ulster and Irish Superbike Championships in the space of eight days as the Burrows Engineering outfit look ahead to Dundrod and the Ulster GP.

'Next to take to the track was the Senior Support race and Dermot Cleary picked up where he left off on Saturday's non-championship running by taking victory from Class leader Tommy Henry by three hundredths of a second. Local rider John O'Donovan took a comfortable third position 16 seconds adrift.

'The usually very well populated classic grid was down somewhat as a result of a clash with Bishopscourt, but nonetheless the protagonists were to the fore and with very little to separate them.

'In the Junior 250-350, Brian Mateer took victory on board his Suzuki from Richard Ford, with Philip Shaw finishing 3rd. In the 350 class, Ed Manly and Barry Davidson renewed their rivalry, with the Meath man winning by just over 2 second and Ian Thompson 3rd.

'The Superbikes returned to the grid for the feature race of the day, but as the forecasted rain began to fall it was clear that a red flag was imminent and the riders made it known passing the start-finish line.

'With no sign of the weather improving the superbike riders returned to the paddock and made way for the combined 201-400cc Junior and 125-450cc races.

'The small grid inevitably strung out, but that didn't take from Skerries' David Howard securing victory from Brian Loughlin and RJ Woolsey.

'Unfortunately, Sean Leonard was the only competitor on the day in the 125-450cc race and steered his 125 Mago Honda home through the changing track conditions as the sun began to shine through again and the rain subsided.

'The 600cc Supersport lined up with Micko Sweeney hoping to take a victory from the Cork pairing of Ray and Stephen Casey. Sweeney powered to the front on the R6 Yamaha from the off and maintained a lead that was never in doubt over the 6 laps, and the local man Casey took a well earned 2nd position ahead of Paul Fallon.

'The Junior Support riders served up another close encounter, similar to the previous offering on Saturday night. The racing barber, Vinny Brennan, went in as the favourite and didn't disappoint as the eye-catching Kawasaki took the top step from John Ella and a maiden podium for Glanworth man Anthony Lillis in 3rd spot.

'We then had the prospect of favourable weather, so the Grand Final entrants returned to the start-finish line. It was to be another duel between the 2 top riders, but this time it was Sweeney who took an early lead from Sheils on the Martin Jones Racing BMW 1000RR.

'The power and the determination of Sheils on the GSXR rose to the top again on the second lap as Sweeney clung on to the coattails of Sheils in the hope that he could seize on any opportunity should it arise, but it never came as the Wicklow native clinched an impressive Superbike double.

'The final step on the podium was a close run affair between the Rebel trio of Ray Casey, Derek Wilson and Stephen Casey. Casey, on board the ZX6R, managed to take the 3rd place honours, with Wilson 4th, Casey 5th and Thomas Maxwell finishing the top 6.

'The penultimate race of the day brought the biggest smile from Micko Sweeney as he powered his way to a dominant victory and Championship winning Supertwins title.

'On a borrowed bike, thanks to Noel Smith, Sweeney's credentials were never challenged, while Darryl Tweed and Vinny Brennan pushed hard to secure the podium places.

'The curtain came down on the day's proceedings with the combined 500-1000cc classic showpiece and it was Richard Ford and Barry Davidson in their respective classes who savoured victory. Ian Thompson and Philip Shaw came in behind Ford and the last podium, but by no means least, of the day was filled by Andy Kildea and Billy Lyle in the 500cc.

'All in all the Munster 100 Race Committee and Cork Motorcycle Racing and Vintage Club held firm in the face of adversity and difficult weather conditions that threw everything at them over the 2 days.

'Racing was concluded by 2:25pm and as the team set celebrated the podium presentations with the victorious riders the heavens truly opened once again, but spirits remain high after this courageous return of the Keohane Citymix Munster 100 Road Races.'

• Many thanks to Donal Arnold for his help with this report.

Fingal Independent