THE GOALPOSTS HAVE MOVED: A BLUEPRINT FOR VICTORY?
Last year at the Isle of Man TT fans were treated to some of the best and most ferocious racing in recent memory as lap times tumbled and seven lap records were smashed.
Peter Hickman and Dean Harrison surpassed all expectations in what proved to be a pulsating and hair-raising Senior TT race. That race brought the curtain down on a fortnight that will live long in the memory of all road racing fans.
It is perhaps a sign of just how fast and dominant those two protagonists were in the senior race that Michael Dunlop’s achievement of winning three races was left almost as footnote.
The goalposts had seemingly shifted.
Of course factors were at play that were conducive to such speeds being possible. Superb weather meant that full practice sessions were available and a plethora of rubber was laid down on the road. This all served to aid the riders in their goal of posting quicker times.
But was that the only reason for the record breaking performances on the island?
TIME ON THE BIKE
Hickman and Harrison have upped their game in the past few seasons with both riders now spending a huge amount of time honing their skills on the short circuits. It would appear that to be at the forefront of international roads competition in the modern era, a rider is now required to put in serious time on the circuits.
With Harrison posting Superbike practice times of 133.462mph - 16:57.728s it is evident that his short circuit exploits have helped assist him in becoming one of the most revered riders in roads competition.
Hickman of course is the perfect working example of how time spent in BSB can translate to road racing success. The Smith’s Racing rider, now the fastest road racer in the world having smashed the Isle of Man TT outright lap record, has established himself as the chief contender for honours whenever he lines up on the grid at an international roads event.
But does this template work for everyone?
THE EXCEPTION TO THE RULE
Although many argue that to be successful on the roads one must compete in BSB, that simply isn’t the case for Michael Dunlop.
The now 18-time TT winner is a pure road racer and although he has contested BSB rounds in the past it certainly isn’t his primary focus.
Last year the Ballymoney man added a further three TT wins to his already impressive tally but he did fall short in the blue riband event when finishing fourth, although admittedly Dunlop did struggle with set-up issues
This year Dunlop returns to island competition with Tyco BMW and a brand new BMW S1000RR to help mount his challenge of reclaiming senior glory.
At the press launch for the Isle of Man TT, Dunlop alluded to the fact that many consider BSB being an essential part of roads success but not before underlining his own determination to finish ahead of his rivals.
If time spent competing in BSB does translate to roads success as many would argue, then it is surely testament to Dunlop’s talent and road racing prowess that he has achieved so much without having the same time on the bike as his rivals.
With the road racing season ready to begin in earnest next week, and with the international season just around the corner, it will soon become clear where the chips will fall and which riders are in prime position to challenge for race wins.
Hickman and Harrison look set to commence hostilities and so long as he has two wheels on his bike, nobody will discount Michael Dunlop who will no doubt pursue victory in his own determined and inimitable fashion.
ROAD RACING FAN PLANS EPIC WILLIAM DUNLOP FUNDRAISING CYCLE
A local road racing fan is planning to cycle 500 miles over the course of three days in memory of William Dunlop.
Adam Carroll from Holywood intends to cycle around the Ulster Grand Prix, North West 200, and the Isle Of Man TT courses on his way to covering the required distance.
All proceeds form the mammoth fundraising cycle will go to the family of the late William Dunlop.
On day one of his epic journey, Adam will ride from his home in Holywood to the Ulster Grand Prix where he will complete 6 laps of the circuit. He will then cycle to Portrush to travel six laps of the North West 200 circuit.
Day two will see him ride from Portrush back to Belfast where he will board the ferry to the Isle of Man. He will then cycle three laps of the world famous mountain course.
On the third and final day of his journey, Adam will once again ride three laps of the TT course finishing his epic trek at the TT Grandstand.
It’s a huge undertaking for the kindhearted cyclist and he hopes his endeavour will help raise funds for William’s partner Janine and his two daughters Ella and Willa Wren.
Speaking about the cycle Adam had this to say:
“William Dunlop was a down to earth man who sadly was taken from us way too early. He always had time for his fans and he will be missed always by the motorcycle world but most importantly by his family and friends. I am asking for your help to raise this money to help his family.”
A crowdfunding page has been created where donations towards Adam’s target of £5,000 can be made.
Visit the page by clicking this link: www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/adam-carroll
ROAD RACING DAILY RISING STAR AWARD 2018
Winner: Adam McLean
With so much young talent on show throughout the road racing paddock, it is almost an impossible task to single out only one name for this particular award, but after much careful consideration the name that kept coming up time and time again was McAdoo man Adam McLean.
Having tracked Adam’s roads journey from the very beginning, the rate at which he has risen to the challenge has been nothing short of astonishing.
The Tobermore man has consistently shown maturity on and off the bike and has excelled whenever he has been tested. Always in the mix on the national scene, McLean also made huge inroads this year at international level taking his maiden win at the Ulster Grand Prix with a fine display in the Supertwins race on Thursday of race week.
With another stellar showing in the supersport race on the same evening, it was a massively impressive performance from the young man.
McLean had to overcome the loss of a teammate earlier in the season, and after initially announcing that he intended to take a break from racing for an undisclosed period, he emerged fully rested and finished the remainder of the season with terrific resolve.
It is comforting to know that he will once more ride for the McAdoo team in 2019 and few would bet against the rising star becoming even more of a force to be reckoned with in the coming months.
ROAD RACING DAILY 2018 AWARDS
Rider of the year: Derek McGee
Race of the year: Tandragee 100 Grand Final
Team of the year: Smith’s BMW
Meeting of the year: Enniskillen Road Races
Rookie of the year: Michael Browne
Sidecar team of the year: The Birchall Brothers
Performance of the year: Peter Hickman, Senior TT
Irish performance of the year: Andy Farrell, MGP
2018 was a vintage year full of eye-opening performances capped off by some terrific Irish victories.
At the head of the pack winning rider of the year was Derek McGee. Another stellar year for the man from Mullingar who added another three Irish titles which repeated his 2017 success. Derek was in imperious form throughout the season, showcasing his credentials in both the national and international meetings with a first podium at the Isle of Man TT and a superb 15 race winning streak on the Irish roads.
Race of the year was a close fought battle with some truly memorable races in contention for the award. For me however, one race stands alone and that was the Tandragee 100 grand final. A titanic four-way tussle for the lead was the story of the race with Tyco BMW’s Dan Kneen running out the eventual victor. Kneen smashed the course record on his way to securing the grand final crown and I’m certain every fan in attendance will remember that performance for years to come.
The inaugural Enniskillen Road Races secures our award for meeting of the year. Fans were treated to some amazing road racing on the outskirts of Fermanagh and the club did a superb job in some difficult weather conditions. With record track temperatures causing chaos, Derek McGee run out the man of the meeting. I for one cannot wait to return later in the year to see some more action.
Andy Farrell’s performance at the Manx Grand Prix gets our nod for Irish performance of the year. The ever popular Farrell stormed to a Manx double back in August and it was thrilling to see the joy displayed by Andy and his loyal team.
Peter Hickman and his Smith’s BMW Team pick up performance and team of the year awards respectively. Both worked in unison to secure a first ever Superstock and Senior TT win and along the way they smashed the TT course record.
Other awards go to Michael Browne who picks up the rookie of the year award and the imperious Birchall Brothers get the nod for sidecar team of the year.
DATES ANNOUNCED FOR 2019 IRISH ROAD RACING SEASON
The full list of dates for the 2019 Irish national and international road racing season has been announced.
Racing gets underway with the traditional season opener, the Cookstown 100, taking place on Friday 26th - Saturday 27th April. One week later it’s the turn of the North Armagh club who play host to the popular Tandragee 100 on Friday 3rd - Saturday 4th May.
Following the first two national meetings of the year is the FonaCAB International North West 200 in association with Nicholl Oils. Bike week is Tues 14th - Sat 18th May and a who’s who of top class riders will contest the racing around the famous triangle circuit.
Next up is the main event, the Isle of Man TT. Last year saw a new lap record in each class and a new outright lap record taken in the Senior TT by Peter Hickman. The festival gets underway on May 25th and runs until June 7th.
June and July are very busy months as the national season in Ireland hots up with no less than 7 meetings coming inside of 8 weeks, the last of which being the Munster 100 which sees a welcome return to road racing in County Cork.
Nestling in the middle of all the national meetings is the hugely popular Southern 100 at Billown. That gets underway on July 8th - 11th.
The world famous Ulster Grand Prix was somewhat overshadowed by inclement weather in 2018, but few would argue that when the sun is shining, Dundrod is quite simply the ultimate test in all of road racing. When the best riders in the world descend on the 7.4 mile circuit and race wheel-to-wheel it is the purest form of the sport. 2019 Bike Week takes place August 7th - 10th.
We then go back to the island for the Manx Grand Prix and Classic TT on August 17th - 26th before the East Coast Racing Festival brings down the curtain to the season. Formerly known as Killalane, the ECRF will be held on Sep 7th - 8th.