Fitting tribute to Sam

JUST a few days after the death of Carrick man Sam Martin at Kirkistown, the Irish Clubmans championship paid a visit to the Co. Down track. The paddock was a very sombre place on Saturday morning.

In the smallest of the classes, the GP125 Newcomers/125 Production, we were treated to some fantastic sport.

In the first race, Conor Parkhill, son of former Classic racer Clifford, fought hard with Luke Johnston and Sam Wilson for the race win. Parkhill grabbed the win, finishing just .3 ahead of Luke Johnston, with Sam Wilson just over a second back.In race two.

Sam Wilson took a win in the second outing, pipping young Parkhill on the line. Luke Johnston finished in third.

Adam McLean must have thought his birthday had come early in the first 125 Production race, when his main rival, Korie McGreevy retired his Aprilia to the paddock, smoking like a traction engine, after the warm up lap.

McLean took the win, with Conal Kavanagh 7.5 seconds back. Aaron McBride took third, a further 5 seconds back. A bit of hasty pit work and McGreevy made the start in race two. Winning by .3 of a second from Adam McLean, young McGreevy broke the lap record, set by Joseph McLoughlin two years ago. The top two had lapped everyone else on the race, with Aaron McBride being credited with finishing third.

An all night building session might not be the best way to prepare for a race meeting, but Timmy Elwood and his team had to fit a new gearbox to his R6 after Monday's Bishopscourt meeting. The bike was jumping out of gear, and the gearbox had to be replaced.

Elwood won both races, the first after a re-start when a particularly nasty accident left a rider on his way to hospital. Timmy took the win, with Sean Hurley a half second back. Jordan Bonar finished in third place. In race two, Elwood's win was just a bit more emphatic, crossing the line some 3.7 seconds ahead of Hurley, with Nico Mawhinney third, right on Hurley's back wheel.

Alan Kenny continued his domination of the Pre97 class, winning then first race by 5.7 seconds. James McCann, not the Ballymoney one, took second place, comfortably ahead of Melvin Hollingsworth.

Alan Kenny was listed as a non starter in race two, where the race win was grabbed by Hollingsworth. Former Antrim man, and ex Pre97 champion, Mark Kelly, on a 600 Honda, finished in second place, just .2 off the win. Garry Ferguson was third.

The Senior class produced a couple of good dices. In the first Daniel O'Connell took the race win, only to be disqualified. It normally says on the results if any disciplinary action is taken against a rider, why it was taken, but it doesn't say anything here. Just that he was disqualified.

He crossed the line .1 ahead of Paul Dornan, who was gifted the race win. That let Banbridge man Rodney Singleton into the runner up spot, ahead of Anthony Rogan. In the second outing O'Connell took the race win, again from Singleton. Dornan took third, less than 2 seconds separating the top three.

James Conroy and Robert McCrum fought out a brilliant race in the Classic class. Conroy won the first one, but only after McCrum was disqualified. He alledgedly crossed the line into the pit lane, and then ignored the black flag.

Breaking the lap record, James beat his father Alex by 14.4 seconds. Eanie Horan on the beautiful sounding Triumph triple finished in third place. James was listed as a non-starter in race two, where Alex grabbed the race win. He beat Eanie Horan by 6.2 seconds, with Dave Hickie third, some 20 seconds back.

Barry Davidson, on Sammy Dempster’s lovely little 198cc Honda broke the 250 class lap record, which had been held by Kells man Jeff Robinson, on the same bike, from 2008.

In the National races, Skerries man Michael Sweeney took a double. He just grabbed the win, from John Walsh, by .066 of a second in the first race, while former Supermoto rider Chris Thompson finished in third position.

In race two Shaun Anderson from Banbridge finished in second place, with Darren Quigg third. Just .7 of a second was the official difference in the top three.

Gavin Kilpatrick had a double in the non qualifiers races. The first from Noel Mawhinney and Gavin Quinn, the second from Liam Deasy and Aiden Kavanagh.

NORTH WEST 200

A full week of North West events has already started, with things like vintage bike displays, minimotoracing, stunt shows and loads of other events designed to bring in the bikes fans form all over the World.

The North West is truly a World wide show now, and with its unique location, given decent weather the race fans will flock to the Triangle circuit.

Apparently this is the final year of the GP125 bikes, the last 'proper race bikes' that are still competing. It’s hard to bypass William Dunlop here for a race win, but the likes of his cousin Paul Robinson and Chris Palmer might have something to say about that. Sadly, local man Jeff Shaw won’t be there, having failed a medical on his injured back a few weeks ago.

Steve Plater seems to be the man of the moment right now, He has taken 5 North West wins since 2005, and whether its the 600 or the Superbike class he will definately give a good account of himself.

Another man who has good road race pedrigee is Ian Hutchinson. After winning two races at the TT last year, the former lap record holder at the Ulster GP, will want to add to his single North West win. Riding for Padgetts, Hutchy can’t be ruled out of any race he enters.

Cameron Donald is another man who will be up for a good result. Now fully recovered from a should injury sustained at the TT last year, when he had a fairly minor off in practice, Donald is after results now. He pushed Ryan Farquhar hard at Cookstown a couple of weeks ago, and in truth, seems to be the only rider capable of doing that on a regular basis.

Speaking of ‘Flyin Ryan’. How can you discount the Killyman rider? He has taken 13 race wins from 13 starts, in 2 meetings, a week apart. He has yet to be beaten in a National road race this year. It’s a fact that he has been robbed of North West wins by very controversial decisions over the past few years.Things races being stopped when he was in the lead, and the result being taken from two laps back, when he wasnt, and things like that. The man who has created history recently by breaking the record of road race wins set by the late, great Joey Dunlop is due at least a win at Portrush. There will be no justice if he doesn’t get at least one. Ryan’s last NW win was in 2005, and he has been robbed of at least 3 others since. It’s near time the record was put straight.

Alistair Seeley is another rider who could upset the apple cart on the Englishmen. The man who seems to have made the Superstock class his own over the past few years, has stepped up to the Superbike class, and has been performing well at BSB on it.

Team mate to Seeley and Donald will be Bruce Anstey. He could be described as a bit of an enigma, I suppose, but there’s no disputing tha fact that hes seriously fast. He can often be found sleeping until about 10 minutes before a race!

You can never discount William and Michael Dunlop. To be honest, I don’t see them taking a Superbike win, but you never know, the Dunlop determination and all that!

If there has to be a best of the rest, its men like Conor Cummins, Crumlin man Stephen Thompson, Guy Martin, John McGuinness, Michael Rutter, Gary Johnson and Gary Mason. He's standing in for his team mate Simon Andrews, whos still on the injured list.

By the time you read this it will be the first day of practice. Roads closing at 5pm until 9.30pm. Practice on Thursday at 9.30am until 3pm.Fuller details for the festival week programme can be found on www.northwest200.org

From a media perspective, the build-up to the race has been overshadowed by an ongoing dispute between several photographers and the organisers with regard to access.

As a photographer, I have to sign on, more or less like a rider has. It’s for insurance to allow me to work trackside. The first thing happened to photographers was that we were given a wee booklet to tell us where we weren’t allowed to go. It was more or less everywhere we have worked for years in perfect safety.

I fully understand that Health & Safety is becoming more and more a issue at race meetings, but the issue that is causing concern among photographers is the perception that some photographers were allowed anywhere, while others are very severely restricted in where they could go.