YOUNG GUN JOEY THOMPSON SECURES BEST NEWCOMER AT RECORD BREAKING ULSTER GRAND PRIX
19 year-old Yorkshireman Joey Thompson showed class and talent way beyond his years as he produced a stellar display of pure road racing at the 2017 MCE Ulster Grand Prix.
The Team ILR rider, making his debut around the famous Dundrod circuit, won the Belfast International Dundrod 150 National Race before going on to secure an impressive third spot in the Plant Lubrication (NI) Ultra Lightweight class.
A top ten finish in the Barron Transport Service Supersport race, coupled with the podiums helped earn the rising star the Vincent Fusco memorial trophy for Best Newcomer.
In a press release issued by Team ILR, Thompson had this to say:
“Ulster GP, where do we start, being a newcomer to the circuit I did not expect the performances I pulled off, getting to grips with the Dundrod circuit so quickly was a surprise but with the help from Ian’s knowledge it made it a lot easier.
“Winning Race 1 was ideal as it set me up with confidence for the rest of the week, the 600 ran perfect with no issues and the Nettleship Honda RS 125 was singing and we managed to qualify front row then get a podium after a hard race against Moto3’s.
“It has been a very successful week and I enjoyed every minute of it, being the fastest ever 600cc newcomer topped it all off nicely.
“Thanks to my dad, Team ILR and all my sponsors and fans for a great time!”
OPINION: DAN KNEEN WRITES HIS OWN TICKET
Dan Kneen once again proved his worth as a premier real roads racer with consistently supreme performances throughout the 2017 Ulster Grand Prix.
Signing for the Penz13 outfit in 2017 was a boost which meant that the Manx rider would get invaluable time on the bike with the team's commitment to racing in the IRRC championship.
The 2014 Irish Roads Superbike Champion has had a difficult few years since dominating on the Irish scene with the Cookstown Burrows Engineering Team, but 2017 has seen the reemergence of a serious talent and a road racer everyone knows is of the absolute highest standard.
At this year's Isle Of Man TT, Kneen immediately made an impact during practice by running right at the front and shocking everyone else into action. It was a sign of things of things to come. Consistently running in the top 5 in all classes, Kneen sent out a marker but bad luck with penalties slightly dampened the high spirits which had been steadily building.
However, a phenomenal podium finish in the Superstock TT was a huge reward for Kneen, only finishing behind Ian Hutchinson and Peter Hickman. What made that result even sweeter for the Manx man was that result was gained on his own DTR machine.
On to Imatranajo and there was more success for Kneen as he passed five riders in three laps to take a superbike victory for the Penz13 team, a victory which saw him beat fellow teammates Michael Rutter and Alex Polita. A win at Imatranajo shouldn't be discounted. The class of the field, coupled with the technical nature of the track means that any victory there requires serious skill and toughness as a racer. That circuit, along with the caliber of the riders who contest it make it a real contender for a road racing classic.
So riding the crest of a wave Kneen found himself testing at Kirkistown on board a Tyco BMW less than a week before the 2017 Ulster Grand Prix. After the Tyco outfit lost their roads rider, Ian Hutchinson following a serious incident during the senior TT, and with Kneen showing the relevant form on BMW machinery, he was a natural replacement to take over duties at Dundrod and it was a decision which was hugely popular within the road racing fraternity.
Dan never missed a beat all week, running at the sharp end and mixing it with world's best on board a machine he had virtually no time on. For the briefest of time he was even the world's fastest road racer until Silicone Engineering's Dean Harrison claimed that crown.
During the final race of the UGP, Kneen and Harrison had a titanic tussle for the victory with both men showcasing to the thousands of fans lining the world's fastest road racing circuit just how much they belong at the sharp end. Kneen had built up a slight advantage on the last lap but that was soon closed and at the hairpin Harrison pulled a slightly questionable move to snatch the lead away and ultimately take victory by the slightest of margins.
Not winning the race may have dampened the spirits of Kneen, but every fan around the course will have left thinking that the popular and approachable Manx rider has more than earned his chance to write his own ticket for 2018 by proving that he is every bit as talented, classy and ultimately as quick as any road racer out there.
PETER HICKMAN: THE EMERGENCE OF A STAR
It was a vintage Ulster Grand Prix and as the dust around Dundrod begins to settle we have seen the emergence of a talent that now looks set to dominate the sport for years to come.
From the first time Peter Hickman raced the roads he immediately made an impact that rattled the entire paddock. Blistering times coupled with a super smooth riding style saw to it that he was running right at the sharp end from the beginning of his roads career.
The 2017 Isle of Man TT saw the Lincolnshire rider finish on the podium five times in five races and a win on the island is now surely imminent.
However, it wasn't until the 2017 UGP roared into action that the Smith's Racing and Weise Motorcycle Clothing sponsored Hickman truly began to assert his utter dominance over the chasing pack. Consistently quick on all machines at the world's fastest road race is key to success and, 'Hicky' as he is affectionately known was surely that.
Few riders have a proclivity for being so talented on both the roads and short circuits, or apparoch both disciplines with the dedicated ebullience required for success, but Hickman surely does and with the Smith's team as backers, he has found consistency and time on the bike which has proved to be absolutely priceless.
Breaking the lap record during the Dundrod 150 Superbike Race on Thursday evening was a sign of things to come as he broke the Superstock lap record on his way to winning the maiden race on Saturday.
Two further wins on board the Trooper Triumph in the supersport class earned the Englishman the man of the meeting award and more importantly, set him up to enter the 2018 roads season as the man to beat in all classes. Add to that one of the bravest overtaking moves seen in recent memory as he bested Lee Johnston on the inside of Wheeler's. That move in particular drew gasps from the crowd and underlined for me just how ruthless a competitor Hickman has become
The likeable rider also endeared himself to many road racing fans as he spent all of his time on Friday meeting the fans and signing autographs and standing for photos. A genuinely nice guy off the bike, but a super fast guy on it.
Electrifying Hickman dazzles at Dundrod
Peter Hickman stole the show during a sun-drenched first day of practice at the Ulster Grand Prix.
The Smith's Racing rider showed his worth as he stormed to the Dundrod 150 superbike pole position. Not content with that, he then topped the field in both Superstock and Supersport classes underlining why so many have him tipped as the favourite for honours this year.
Although Hickman topped the tables, he may not have it all his own way as the veteran, Bruce Anstey kept him honest, especially in the Supersport class. Hickman's best time was 3:31.316, whereas the Flying Kiwi's was 3:31.400. In fact, less than four seconds covered the first top ten 600cc runners setting up a scintillating race in prospect.
12 time Ulster Grand Prix winner, Anstey was also in form on his return to the 250 class on board the Padgett's Honda 250. He finished over Neil Kernohan and Davy Morgan ahead of racing on Thursday.
Top 10 Supersport practice postions
1 Peter HICKMAN
2 Bruce ANSTEY
3 Dean HARRISON
4 William DUNLOP
5 Derek McGEE
6 Lee JOHNSTON
7 Michael DUNLOP
8 Conor CUMMINS
9 Jamie COWARD
10 Adam McLEAN
Michael Dunlop left it let in the day to find some Superbike form. After making a few changes his time improved and with further track time before the racing begins, expect the Ballymoney rider to be right at the sharp end on board his Bennett's Suzuki GSXR1000.
A class that always provides close racing at Dundrod is the Supertwins and it was Ivan Lintin who laid down the marker here but hit on his heels were McAdoo Racing's James Cowton and the two Dereks, McGee and Sheils. A mouthwatering race in prospect.
American roads rider, Patricia Fernandez has made steady improvements since first contesting the world's fastest road race.
Before racing got underway at Dundrod this year, Fernandez's record stood at 118.264mph which she set riding in the supersport class back in 2016.
This year, the Magic Bullet sponsored rider was armed with a much more powerful ZX-10 in the garage and with that meaning more time on the bike, the roads star was hopeful of making further inroads into her record. Thankfully she was successful as she smashed her record during the first superbike race, setting a new lap record of 119.67mph.
Photo credit: Graham Stephenson
Your top five finishers in each race from the Ulster Grand Prix.
It wasn't a vintage day for the Irish lads but what about that Supersport result from Team IMR's Paul Jordan and a terrific 5th spot for Derek Sheils in the second superbike outing on board his Cookstown Burrows Engineering Suzuki.
Davy Morgan and Paul Robinson winning proved to be hugely popular and what a star for the future we have with the best newcomer and Team ILR rider, Joey "Yorkshire" Thompson! He really showed his class over the course of the week as did young Adam Mclean with a great podium finish on his twin.
Lap records from Callum Laidlaw, Dean Harrison, Ivan Lintin, Peter Hickman and Christian Elkin made it a special occasion too on a day when conditions were perfect, even more so than any of us dared to hope for.
Thank you to the Ulster Grand Prix team for putting on such a remarkable show. The clerk of the course Noel Johnston, the media team, volunteers, medics, marshals and course builders, without whom none of what we witnessed would have been possible.
Of course we have in our hearts and minds thoughts of those who are injured or have fallen. We pray for all of those involved and send our well wishes to them.
I will post the full results complete with timings on our website later.
Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council Superstock
1. Peter Hickman
2. Dean Harrison
3. Dan Kneen
4. David Johnson
5. Conor Cummins
Centra Whitemountain Supersport
1. Peter Hickman
2. Bruce Anstey
3. Lee Johnston
4. Dean Harrison
5. William Dunlop
Plant Lubrication (NI) Ultra Lightweight
1. Paul Robinson
2. Christian Elkin
3. Joey Thompson
4. Adam McLean
5. Gary Dunlop
Plant Lubrication (NI) Lightweight
1. Davy Morgan
2. Paul Owen
3. Callum Laidlaw
4. David Howard
5. Paul Gartland
MMB Surfacing Superbike
1. Bruce Anstey
2. Peter Hickman
3. Dean Harrison
4. Dan Kneen
5. Conor Cummins
Barron Transport Services Supersport
1. Peter Hickman
2. Bruce Anstey
3. Lee Johnston
4. Michael Dunlop
5. Paul Jordan
Maxwell Freight Services Supertwins
1. Ivan Lintin
2. Daniel Cooper
3. Adam McClean
4. Derek Sheils
5. Christian Elkin
Around a Pound Superbike
1. Dean Harrison
2. Dan Kneen
3. Conor Cummins
4. Michael Dunlop
5. Derek Sheils
Photo credit: Matthew Fields Photography.
Thank you to Matthew and Donal for helping me with photos over the course of the week. Sincerely couldn't have done it without you guys.
SUBLIME HICKMAN SCORES SUPERB TREBLE
The Lincolnshire rider was quickest during practice and qualifying and on Thursday evening he underlined his racing pedigree when he broke the lap record during the Dundrod 150 Superbike race.
However, he surpassed all expectations as the Ulster Grand Prix roared into life on Saturday just as the sun drenched the rolling hills around Dundrod.
Hickman won the opening Superstock race at a canter on board his BMW S1000rr and handed the Smith's Racing team a superb victory. On the way to that win he broke the Superstock lap record with a speed of 132.77mph.
More success was to follow in the supersport classes as Hickman doubled up on board his Trooper Triumph machine.
A tussle with Bruce Anstey in Supersport race one set him up for the second race where he made one of the most astonishing overtaking manoeuvres ever seen as he roared past Lee Johnston on the inside of Wheeler's.
Bad luck in the final superbike race when he retired due to mechanical issues may have slightly dampened his spirits, but the multiple international road racing winner leaves Dundrod as a rider who has now come to the forefront of his sport, written his own story and stamped his authority over the rest of the field.
Photo credit: Donal Glackin