MID-ANTRIM 150 TO HIT TOP GEAR THIS WEEKEND

Some of the riders and officials who will be in Clough on Saturday week for the Mid Antrim 150. Picture: Roy Adams.
Some of the riders and officials who will be in Clough on Saturday week for the Mid Antrim 150. Picture: Roy Adams.

The 66th running of the Mid Antrim 150, one of the county’s biggest sporting events of the year, takes place this weekend on the 3.6 mile Clough road race circuit, writes Roy Adams.

The problems the club had last year are well enough documented, so I don’t need to start on those again. The cancellation of the racing could very easily have meant an end to the 150, but I think it’s typical of the spirit the Mid Antrim club members have shown that it will again go ahead. I would imagine that there will be some kind of security, though.

This year the meeting has been moved from its traditional August slot to what the club hope will be a more advantageous date, in mid June. The club have suffered more than most over recent years with bad weather, and it’s hoped that the new date will allow them a chance of reasonable weather, plus the possibility of better light later in the evening for practice.Practice will take place this afternoon, with roads closing at 4pm and planned to re open before 10pm. On Saturday roads close at 10am until 6.30pm. It’s not the clubs intention to run any practice sessions on the Saturday at all. It’s hoped to have the first race on the grid at 10.45am.

I’ll have a look at each event individually.

MAINE DRIVING SCHOOL PARADE LAPS

While properly speaking not a race - although sometimes I wonder! - Carl Shaw, from the Maine Driving School, backs the parade laps. The entry here is topped by Ray McCullough.

There are quite a few locals entered. Carl Shaw himself, from Ballymena will take out his TZ350 Yamaha, while John Smyth from Broughshane has a 125 Honda. Davy Gordon, who was a leading rider in the 80s on big Kawasaki machinery is down to have a run round. Barry Davidson is due to take his dad Sammy’s beautiful ex Con Law 250 Yamaha out a run, while Billy Bamber has a 250 Honda-4 that simply needs to be heard. I hope Billy is on his own when you get to hear that bike.

Mark Waddell from Randalstown has an ex Joey Dunlop 250 Honda, while Neill Kernohan rides a 600 Yamaha. Gary Neeson will take a 600 Honda out, while Cullybackey man Stephen Marrs is entered on a Skoal Bandit Suzuki. My thanks to Jeff Shaw who has again offered me his ex Mervyn Robinson Yamsel, and although I have no entry, I might just turn up and take my chances. His reason for not riding it himself is that he’s not old enough. I’m not sure whether to be happy about that or not. Thanks Jeff.

RACE 1 - HUGH FITZSIMONS ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR/VIVO CLOUGH SENIOR SUPPORT

The first race action of the day will be in the Hugh Fitzsimons Electrical Contractor/Vivo Clough Senior Support race.

This race, which will see many newcomers to the Clough circuit, is for lesser known riders, and often sees the emergence of a new name or two. It’s very difficult to make predictions, so I’m not going to try, rather tell you who I think should do well. Apart from that, I could end up putting a jinx on somebody!

After early leader Damien Horan crashed out at Tandragee, the red flags were hung out. On the re start Noel Brennan romped to a race win. Brennan, from Kilbeggan in Co.Westmeath, won by over 11 seconds. Looking at the entry list for Mid Antrim, big Damo isn’t entered, and while Brennan is, it might be a bit premature to say he’s a cast iron favourite. Meath man Bernard Daly went well last season, and hasn’t been too far away this year either. Add to that men like William Hara, Richard McLoughlin, Alan Kenny, George Scott and Aron Hatch, I certainly won’t be making any predictions.

We have a couple of local men taking part here. Robert Gordon, from Portglenone has been riding well this year and always goes well at Clough, the circuit where his brother Norman, a great worker for the Mid Antrim club was a former Clerk of the Course. Stephen Beattie from Crumlin is also entered.

RACE 2 - BALLYMENA BOROUGH COUNCIL/CLEANING DOCTOR 250/350 CLASSIC RACE

The 250/350 Classic race is the most popular, as regards entries, of the two Classic races, with quite a few mounted on 350 Hondas. B

allymena Borough Council and Mid Antrim committee member Robin Brown, through his business The Cleaning Doctor, are the sponsors of this event.

The 350 class is wide open, with men like Glarryford’s Barry Davidson, Denis Gallagher, Allan Brew and Thomas Hogg all in the mix. Davidson, a multiple winner at Clough in recent years, has scaled his racing back somewhat recently following the birth of son Matt, but make no mistake, he’s not just there to make up the numbers.

Thomas Hogg, who’s an old sparring partner of mine when I raced myself, could grab a win, on the Leonard Honda, the same bike that former Ballymena man Terry Simpson took an Irish title a few years back. Allan Brew, from Ramsey on the Isle of Man is something of a rarity in that he will ride an Aermacchi. There’s nothing that I can say about Denis Gallagher that will do the man justice. The title legend is far too often bandied about in relation to people that just aren’t. Now into his mid 70s, the Glaswegian is easily capable of winning, and given decent weather, upping the lap record as well.

In the 250 division, It’s hard to look any further than Phil Shaw, although men like Gary Hutton, Bryan Allen, Bertie Wright and current MCUI President Chris Blair should all be there at the finish. Chris is entered on a Honda, but I think that he will take his trusty Suzuki out. The only Honda I know that Chris has is an RS250 GP bike.

RACE 3 - MAINE SURFACE FINISHING SUPERBIKE RACE

The Maine Surface Finishing Superbike race will see the top road racers take to the track for the first time in the day.

Maine Surface Finishing is a new backer for the Mid Antrim 150, and hopefully we will have a good race to help bring their name to the fore.

Undoubtedly, top of the bill has to be Ryan Farquhar. By far the most successful road racer in history, Ryan has won 180 Irish road races, and who would bet against him winning a few more at Clough?

The entry list I have been given does not have either William or Michael Dunlop on it, but from speaking to Mid Antrim members, they hope that both will confirm entries after the TT.

Also entered are Adrian Archibald, John Burrows, Michael Pearson, Derek Shiels, Jamie Hamilton, Davy Morgan and William Davison. Davison impressed me greatly at the TT, where he was steady in all his races, improving his lap times as the week progressed. Czech visitor Michal Dokoupil, better known as Indi, is down to ride.

Local riders here are Dennis Booth and Corran Smyth.

RACE 4 - ROBERT LOGAN HARDWARE JUNIOR RACE

Chris Logan, in the form of long time Mid Antrim club sponsor Robert Logan Hardware, underwrite the Junior race.

The brutal truth of it is that over recent years 2 stroke, GP machines have been dwindling on our grids. A few years ago we had separate 250 and 350 races, now there are no 350s and the few 250s that are left are combined with the SS400 bikes. Any 350s there are left will take part in the parade laps.

In the 250 race, hopefully William Dunlop will appear, although I wouldn’t bet on it. Davy Morgan and Barry Davidson should lead the way here, but I have half a suspicion that Barry won’t bring his Cleaver Brown Honda to the line. Apart from Barry, Ballymena’s Trevor Reid and Nutts Corner man Bryan Harding are our local entrants.

In the SS400 division, Skerries man Andy Farrell should be the man who calls the shots, but His fellow townsman David Howard might have other ideas. Howie is never too far off the pace. Scotland’s Vic Allen is a man with plenty of road race experience, while Johnny McCay, John McAllister and Portglenones Robert Gordon should go well.

RACE 5 - BRAEHEAD CAKES SUPERTWINS RACE

This is a fairly new class to road racing. Ryan Farquhar has been a tireless campaigner for the class that gives riders with a relatively low budget a good chance of winning. Braehead Cakes will sponsor this race, and I would be surprised if it’s not one of the best races of the day.

Take out of the equation Ryan Farquhar, who I imagine will clear off and win with ease. Think now of Ryan’s KMR team mate Jamie Hamilton, William Davison, Adrian Archibald, John Burrows, Micko Sweeney, Davy Morgan, Andy Farrell, and Craig Shirlaw. All could be at the sharp end of things. There is any one of a dozen riders capable of having a good tight race for the lower placings. Kells man Dennis Booth is entered here on an SV650.

RACE 6 - HILL CONTRACTS SUPERSPORT RACE

Hill Contracts are the main backers of William Davison, the Kilrea man who performed so well at the TT in his rookie year there. They have also stepped in to back the Supersport 600 race at the Clough meeting, which could quite possibly be one of the races of the day.

Men to watch out for are, obviously, Ryan Farquhar, but also Adrian Archibald, John Burrows, Michal Dokoupil, Michael Pearson, Micko Sweeney, Davy Morgan, Derek Sheils and William Davison himself.

The 600s always provide close racing, and I can’t see a reason why this will be any different. With the lap record standing to Ryan Farquhar at over 106mph it won’t be just the Dungannon man who will want to lift it higher. Dennis Booth, Corran Smyth and Robert Gordon are our local entrants in this race.

RACE 7 - DONNA’S DESIGNS 125/MOTO450 RACE

The 125/Moto450 race will be sponsored by Donna Mitchell, of Donna’s Designs.

We have been treated to a few good 125 races this year. It would be hard to see Paul Robinson being beaten, but he has been known to have problems getting his little Aprilia off the line. That said, he was in brilliant form at Tandragee. The uphill start at Clough might not suit Paul, but you can be sure that once he’s going he’ll be setting the pace.

Nigel Moore is another man who will be pushing for the race win, while Sam Wilson from Cullybackey has been knocking on the door now for a few meetings now. Wayne Kennedy, Sam Dunlop and Warren Reeve won’t be too far away either, so expect a close finish in this one.

Barry Davidson will have the Bob Wylie Moto3 bike here, and might well find the circuit really suits the tractable nature of the 250 single cylinder 4 stroke machine.

Local entrants will be Barry Davidson, Sam Wilson, Cullybackey’s Mark McNeilly and Kells man Brian Smith, who will ride the Mid Antrim 125 Honda, number 150.

In the Moto 450 class, it’s pretty much a certainty that Ryan Farquhar will win, but I would expect former Ballymena man, now living in Ballyclare, Darren Gilpin to be hanging in there with Trevor Ferguson and big Dave Walsh.

RACE 8 - PEOPLES JUNIOR SUPPORT RACE

Like the Senior Support, this is one of the races where it’s difficult to call a winner.

The Peoples race, as far as I’m aware, was a concept started by the local club whereby people could become part sponsors of a race for a nominal amount of money.

At Tandragee, Coleraine man Davy Black and Ronnie Scott from Magherafelt were the two main men with Black grabbing a half second win. Both are entered here. Another man I would expect to be in the mix would be Ballymoney’s Rodney Patton, while Mark Shiels from Duleek always goes well at Clough. Add to these Derek and Vic Allan, William Hara, Craig Shirlaw and Bernard Daly and we should have another cracking race in prospect.

Ballymena man Trevor Reid, on his TZ250 could well turn his local knowledge to good use, while Bryan Harding from Nutts Corner is also entered on a 250 Honda. Riding a wee 400 Honda, Rab Gordon could surprise a few people.

RACE 9 - CLOUGH GLASGOW RANGERS SUPPORTERS CLUB SUPERBIKE

Another long time sponsor of the Mid Antrim is the Rangers Club, who back the final modern bike race of the day.

This race should be similar to the first Superbike outing in that the same riders will come under starters orders.

Ryan Farquhar has got to be the main man in this race, but hopefully the Dunlop boys will come to the line after their TT exploits. Both claimed podiums in the Island. The truth of the matter is the Dunlops are the only riders capable of regularly giving Farquhar a run for his money.

I would be looking at Archibald, Burrows, Dokoupil, Shirlaw, Pearson, Davison, Morgan and possibly Jamie Hamilton to come up with a good result here. Given decent weather, Ryan Farquhars ALR of 109.421mph, set in 2007, could well be under threat.

RACE 10 - G & G ROSS QUARRY AND STONECRUSHERS 500/1000 CLASSIC RACE

I know that the Mid Antrim club are disappointed with the entry for this race, and with only 8 bikes entered, I’m not too surprised. We might even find it amalgamated with the 250/350 Classic event.

On current form, I would think that Richard Ford could take the honours. He should be able to see off anything that is thrown at him. Gary Jamison, Manxman Allan Brew and Emyvale’s Freddie Stewart could all be near the front at the finish.

Other awards and sponsors of the Mid Antrim are Bertie Turtle Transport, in Broughshane, who will sponsor the Man of the Meeting award; Norman Douglas, for the Tommy Douglas Memorial Trophy plus £100 for the winner of the 125 race; The Jolly Beggars Club, from Scotland, will provide not only £200 and a trophy to the best competitor under 25, but will also be helping overseas riders with some of their expenses.

The person displaying the Spirit of the Mid Antrim will be awarded the Dessie Armstrong Trophy plus £250, while Sam Robinson has donated £100 for the fastest lap of the day.

The club would also like to thank the multitude of other people who have helped out in so many ways, from the programme advertisers to all those who have provided help in kind. Congratulations also to Ballymena’s Carleen McCord, who was the winner of the recent Miss Mid Antrim 150 2012 title. Carleen has been a joy to work with at all the media launches, and it makes taking photos so much easier when the subject is easy going, not to mention pretty.

Prizemoney for the meeting stands at approximately £10,000, and this as well as a number of special awards. This year, the meeting will have a new Clerk of the Course in Raymond Aitcheson, who will have the help of the enthusiastic club workers.

As usual, next week the Times will have comprehensive coverage of the Mid Antrim 150.