John Burrows says anything more than a top ten finish will be a bonus at the 51st Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix next week.
Republic of Ireland rider Derek Sheils impressed on his debut at the infamous Guia street course in 2016 as he finished ninth on the Cookstown B.E. Racing Suzuki.
Sheils has the benefit of a year’s experience under his belt this time around as the Dungannon team prepares to fly out to the former Portuguese colony near Hong Kong, but owner Burrows acknowledges that the unique race poses a difficult challenge.
“We had a coupe of years’ experience going to Macau but it was difficult for Derek going there for the first time last year. We knew the ropes a bit but it is always difficult to get up to speed in such a short space of time,” he said.
“Derek was in the dice for fifth with John McGuinness and Stuart Easton and finished up ninth in the end, but the problem was that our bike started to overheat at the end of the race because of the fumes and hot air coming from the other bikes: it’s something that we can learn from this year.
“We always treat Macau as a bit of a holiday but I guess that Derek will want to be as competitive as he can.
“We’ll be happy to be inside the top ten again and anything else will be a bonus,” he added.
“Certainly we can start on Thursday morning where we finished off last year in terms of gearing and suspension settings. With the experience of last year, Derek will be that bit more comfortable from the off.”
Sheils enjoyed another strong season on the roads but he was dogged by problems at the Isle of Man TT, where he failed to register a finish in four starts, although he did have the consolation of setting the fastest lap by a rider from the Republic of Ireland at 128.78mph on the GSX-R1000.
However, Sheils lost the chance of retaining his Irish National Superbike crown after being forced to sit out the Armoy meeting due to his commitments at a close friend’s wedding.
Burrows said: “It was disappointing not to win the Irish Superbike Championship as Derek won all the races that he started bar Walderstown.
“It would’ve been the icing on the cake to win the championship but we knew we were up against it when we didn’t get going at Armoy.
“Hopefully we’ll not make that same mistake again in the future.”
Meanwhile, Burrows says he is close to finalising his plans for 2018, when he is looking at the possibility of running a two-man team.
“We’re at an advanced stage with our plans for next season and I’m hopeful we will run a two-man team in 2018, so we will hopefully make an announcement soon.”
Practice for the Macau Grand Prix is due to get underway next Thursday, when Carrickfergus man Glenn Irwin is among the favourites on the PBM Be Wiser Ducati.
Fermanagh’s Lee Johnston also makes the trip and will ride the East Coast BMW.
Louth’s Peter Hickman is bidding for a third successive victory and joins eight-time winner Michael Rutter on the SMT/Bathams BMW machines, while Martin Jessopp will be gunning for his maiden win on the Riders Motorcycles BMW after finishing as the runner-up three times.
Big names John McGuinness and Ian Hutchinson miss out through injury, but the line-up includes rising star Dean Harrison on the Silicone Engineering Kawasaki and Manx riders Conor Cummins (Padgett’s Honda) and Dan Kneen (Pez13.com BMW).
Saintfield’s Davy Morgan will also return to the Far East for the sixth time after making his debut in 2012.