Ryan Farquhar had a clean sweep at last weekend’s Mid Antrim 150, winning all five races he started in, writes Roy Adams. The Dungannon ace was in scintillating form, as he blitzed the opposition in every class, from Moto450 right up to Superbike, proving just how versatile he really is.
You really must feel for the organisers. Having moved the meeting from August to what they considered would be a better date weather wise they were faced with days of rain before the meeting even started.
Friday’s practice sessions were held in controlled conditions, after steady rain and a strong gusty wind had made the track surface less than ideal. I spoke to a few riders, who told me as the track became wetter it actually got easier to ride, especially the section through the farmyard, which is always slippery. Michael Pearson withdrew from the meeting after taking out his R6 on Friday night.
He said he just didn’t like the conditions and his bike was cutting out in the wet. Looking at the entry, and the numbers of competitors who raced, there were quite a few who gave the meeting a miss. Men like Adrian Archibald, Michael and William Dunlop and Davy Morgan were all missing from the grid, for one reason or another.
The first race on Saturday was the Hugh Fitzsimons Electrical Contractor/Clough Vivo Senior Support, which was the third round of the Loanends/Enkalon Support Series. On paper, Noel Brennan started as one of the favourites for the win.
His race was short however, when he dropped his R6 coming out of Clough Hairpin on the opening lap. The race turned into a battle, involving Ballymena’s Sam Wilson, Rodney Patton from Ballymoney, Richard McLoughlin and Coleraine man William Hara.
On a wet track, Patton came from behind to grab his first ever road race win, from Sam Wilson, who was having his first race meeting on a 600. Wilson was just 2.8 seconds adrift of Patton. Sligo man McLoughlin was third, something of the order of 5 seconds behind Wilson. Sam Wilson, obviously, was the best of the county riders, in second place. His fastest lap was 94.029mph. Portglenone man Robert Gordon was the next best local rider, finishing in 10th place and having a fastest lap of 89.556mph. Crumlin man Stephen Beattie on his Triumph took 19th place, lapping at 79.631mph. Antrim’s Mark Hanna was a non starter.
The Ballymena Borough Council/Cleaning Doctor 250/350 Classic race was flagged away by Ballymena’s new Mayor, Cllr. PJ McAvoy. Right from the start Keith Costello, who was a late entry, was hounding early leader Barry Davidson. Costello got his nose ahead, and held on to grab the race win, by 1.6 seconds, ahead of Barry. He was, in turn, nearly 3 seconds ahead of Denis Gallagher, the Scottish rider settling for third place, less than 3 seconds back. In the 250 class, just as I thought last week, Phil Shaw was in great form, winning by just over 10 seconds. Bryan Allan took runner up. They were 7th and 8th on the road. Ballymoney man Alex McVicker was third. Barry Davidson’s fastest lap, on his way to second place, was 82.502mph, only a shade off the fastest lap of the race, set by the winner.
The third race of the day was the Maine Surface Refinishing Superbike event. Maine Surface Refinishing are new, very welcome sponsors for the Mid Antrim 150. On rapidly drying roads, quite simply, there was nobody in the same league at Ryan Farquhar, who registered his first win on his new Superbike.
Banbridge’s Shaun Anderson led for the first half lap or so, but when Farquhar went ahead it was about how much time he could put into the rest of the field. At one stage the Dungannon man was taking over a second a lap out of everyone else. Big Shaun was 10.4 seconds back at the finish, with Derek Sheils just edging out Michael Sweeney after a great battle.
Kells’ Denis Booth, who, on an R6 was giving away 400cc to the full blown Superbikes. Even so, Den finished in 12th place, setting a fastest lap of 93.362mph. Stephen McIlvenna, from Randalstown, also rode an R6, taking 15th place. Jacks fastest lap was 93,192mph.
Now living in Ballyclare, former Ballymena man Darren Gilpin led the Robert Logan Hardware Junior race as the riders went out of the village on the first lap. By the end of the first lap, though, Paul Robinson, riding the Roy Hanna Motors TSR Honda, had opened up a lead, from Seamus Elliott. Robinson was pulling away until the bike cried enough. By then Elliott was also quite noticeably nursing his bike as well. Both men retired on the 4th lap, handing the lead to Barry Davidson, who was riding a little Moto3 Honda. Not having the outright power of a full blown GP250, it wasn’t long before Armoy man Tommy Henry went past into the lead, and held on to take his first road race win. It was only Tommy’s fourth road race meeting. Bryan Harding was the third 250 to finish, well behind Davidson.
Run concurrently, Andy Farrell ran out as the winner of the SS400 race. He was always ahead here, eventually taking the win by over 23 seconds. Englishman Gavin Lupton was second and Portglenone’s Robert Gordon third. Barry Davidson, on the Moto3 single cylinder 250 4 stroke machine, finished in second place on the road. He had a fastest lap of 87.842mph. Bryan Harding, from Nutts Corner, was the third placed 250GP bike. He had a quickest lap of 85.853mph. Also to finish was Robert Gordon, from Portglenone. In taking third in the SS400 class, Rab was 6th on the road, and had a quickest lap of 84.894mph. Mark McNeilly, from Cullybackey finished in 11th place on the road, the 7th SS400 machine. He had a fastest lap of 78.092mph. Ballymena man Trevor Reid was listed as a non finisher, retiring his Yamaha on the last lap.
The Braehead Cakes Supertwins race, so very predictably, went to Ryan Farquhar. He was never under any real pressure, leading right from the drop of the flag. Braking down into Clough, Ryan grabbed his favourite inside line, leaving John Burrows and Michael Sweeney to go round the outside. Farquhar’s KMR team mate Jamie Hamilton actually led into Clough, but went very wide, eventually settling into 4th place.
That was only until the second lap when he dropped the ER6, trying to turn in when still hard on the brakes. Knocking some 2.5 seconds off the Supertwins lap record, Ryan moved away, eventually winning by over 45 seconds. His fellow Dungannon man John Burrows was second, and Andy Farrell taking third, moving up when Micko Sweeney retired on lap 5.
Hill Contracts, who are the main backers of Kilrea’s William Davison, sponsored the Supersport 600 race. There was drama here right from the start, as Derek McGee fell at Clough Hairpin. He took down Denis Booth, who ended up standing watching the race from the church grounds, while McGee sat on the summer seat and watched!
Neither was hurt and both raced again later in the day. With his own Supersport bike still in pieces after the TT, Ryan Farquhar borrowed his old bike back from Duleek man Mark Sheils. Ryan blasted off the line, and it was then a race for second place. Skerries man Micko Sweeney ended up 9.6 seconds back, but under pressure from Derek Sheils, no relation to Mark, who was riding for Randalstown based team T&M Racing. Jack McIlvenna finished in 13th position, lapping at 95.362mph, while Robert Gordon was 16th with a lap of 93.280mph.
Donna Mitchell, of Donna’s Designs was the sponsor of the 125GP and Moto450 races, which ran concurrently. Ballymena’s Sam Wilson, in only his fourth road race, was the early leader. His decision to start on full wets soon proved wrong, however, and soon Paul Robinson took the lead. Robinson, on slicks, pulled away on the now dry track, to win by 5.5 seconds. Ballymoney’s Seamus Elliott finished in third place, some 5 seconds back of Wilson. Sam Wilson was the best local rider, obviously. His fastest lap, at 94.234mph was only marginally slower than Paul Robinsons.
Taking 4th place, Barry Davidson, on Bob Wylie’s Moto3 machine, just edged Nigel Moore by half a second. Barry’s fastest lap was 92.289mph. Mark McNeilly, from Cullybackey, was entered for the 150 last year, but for obvious reasons didn’t get to race, so in effect, this was his first Mid Antrim. He finished in 10th place, having a fastest lap of 84.808mph. Mark told me on Sunday ’I enjoyed the race. I couldn’t get on with the 400 at all, but when I got my head dialled into the wee bike, I was happy enough with it.’
Kells man Brian Smith didn’t start the Mid Antrim 150 branded Honda. The Moto450 class gave Ryan Farquhar his most emphatic win of the day. Jumping onto the smallest of his stable after the 600 made no real difference and he won by almost a minute and forty seconds.
In second and third places, Darren Gilpin and Dave Walsh, two men who share an awning and are great friends, had a great dice for the lower podium placings. Gilpin just managed to pip the big Aghadowey man by .2 of a second. Farquhar upped the lap record by over 4 seconds here, the only rider to lap in access of 95mph in the race.
Davy Black was the early leader of the Peoples Race, the Junior Support, which was the third round in the Loanends/Enkalon Support series. Davy overshot at Dunbought Corner. By the time he got back on track he was left to try to catch the leaders. Back up to second place on the road, the Coleraine man lost his front wheel going through O’Hara’s. While he wasn’t too badly injured, his bike demolished a safety fence, and so the race was red flagged. The result was taken from the end of 5 laps. That gave the win to Ronnie Scott, who was 15.5 seconds ahead of Mark Sheils, the man who lent his 600 to Ryan Farquhar for the Supersport race.
Ballymoney’s Rodney Patton, who earlier in the day took his first road race win, was right in Sheils’ wheeltracks at the end, finishing .2 behind. Bryan Harding was the best of our local men. The Nutts Corner rider took 7th place with a fastest lap of 90.258mph. Ballymena’a Trevor Reid just managed to pip Robert Gordon for 10th place. On a GP250 Yamaha, Trevor grabbed the 10th place with a quickest lap of 88.170mph, while Rab finished in 11th place, just a second behind Trevor. The Portglenone man lapped at 87.079mph.
One of the Mid Antrim clubs longtime sponsors, the Clough Glasgow Rangers Supporters Club, backed the Grand Final. Setting the fastest lap on his second circuit, Ryan Farquhar took the race win by 10.3 seconds. Derek Sheils and John Burrows had a good race, until Sheils managed to make a break. He finished some 14 seconds clear of Burrows, who had clashed with Farquhar going off the line. Burrows finished the race with a gaping hole in the bodywork of his Kawasaki. Sam Wilson was the best of the county riders. Despite being on a 600 against full blown Superbikes, Sam filled 10th place, lapping at 99.608mph. Just a fraction of a second off the 100mph. Dennis Booth was 12th also on a 600cc bike. His quickest lap was 98.234mph.
The final race of the day, as the rain started to fall, was the Senior Classic. Sponsored by G&G Ross Quarry and Stone Crushers, the win went to Richard Ford. On a 920 Norton, formerly raced by Bob Jackson, Ford broke away from the rest of the field early in the race and was never going to be beaten. He finished 25.2 seconds ahead of Scottish rider Mark McGaw. McGaw had a good race with Manxman Allan Brew, but the Ramsey man had to give best by .7 of a second.
After Friday night’s incessant rain, and the weather forecast, which gave more nasty weather on the Saturday, it’s quite evident that many people stayed away from the 150. It was their loss. The club delivered a first class day’s racing, which was well run. There was very little time lost between races with this ‘everybody and their granny having to have a run round for a look’ mentality.
After last year, and the impossible situation the Mid Antrim club found themselves in, it’s a credit to the club membership that they picked themselves up and carried on with organising the meeting. Road racing fans should be thankful they did. For Clerk of the Course Raymond Aitcheson, better known as Busby, it was the first time he acted as CoC at a road race, did a first class job.
The only red flag incident he had during the day was dealt with quickly and bikes were back on track in the shortest possible time. Well done to all concerned.
FORGOTTEN ERA CHAMPIONSHIP LOSES BACKER
One of only two MCUI championships to have overall backing has lost its primary sponsor, just days before the first round.
The Fondseca.com/Zig Zag Forgotten Era series was to have got under way at Mondello this coming weekend, but now fondseca.com have decided to withdraw their sponsorship.
It’s common knowledge that the Forgotten Era club were unhappy at what they saw as the Ulster Centre’s meddling with the rules they had drafted for their championship. A FE club spokesman told me: ‘We had made the rules that would allow us to have a round of the European championship in Ireland. We had already spoken to Eric Saul, who organises the Euro races. He had said he was happy with things, the way we had them. Then the MCUI started to let bikes and riders out that were not eligible under ICGP rules. When we let it be known we weren’t happy about it.”
Now fondseca.com have pulled out of their sponsorship deal. Vince Cundle, from Fondseca said ‘The championship was fine the way I was sold it. The way it’s been altered now, isn’t what I signed up to, so I’m pulling out. I will have no problem returning with a new deal, but it must be just that. A completely new deal, and signed properly by both parties.’ I understand that the Mourne Country Park, in Kilkeel, who were to supply the championship trophies, are also stepping back.
Robbie Richardson, who was the main instigator of the Forgotten Era championship told me on Sunday: ‘I want nothing more to do organising or promoting racing in Northern Ireland.’
It’s a pity what looked like a fun championship has been left in limbo like this. I understand that the Forgotten Era riders will still race at Mondello this weekend, and that they will still honour the agreements they have with the clubs who are promoting their races this year, it’s just the overall championship that will be affected.
BUSH THIS WEEKEND
This weekend we have another one of the double headers that no one really likes, neither organisers nor fans. Road race fans will, obviously, head to the Bush meeting, near Dungannon, while the Adelaide Mondello Masters will be on Saturday and Sunday at the Co. Kildare track. The practice for Bush will be on Friday, while Mondello will have a two day format, with races on Saturday and Sunday.