Weather proves favourable to fans and racers at Cookstown

Even though there was heavy early morning rain, weather at Cookstown was generally kind, and we were treated to some good, hard racing.

The crowd get a close look at Barry Davidson on his way to third place in the 250 Classic race. Picture: Roy Adams.

On Friday night, the first race of the weekend went to Noel Murphy. Better known as Smurf, he had to recover from a slow start to go into the lead, gradually pulling away till the finish. He won by 4.5 seconds over Paul Fallon with Jordan McGonigle in third, under a second behind.

We had no local entrants in this race, but riding the Ballymena based Rathkenny Track and Enduro bike, Czech rider Veronika Hankocyova finished in a very creditable 6th place. Her fastest lap, of 71.7mph, was the 5th quickest of the race.

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Riding in his first ever road race, Ducati mounted Paul Swords was involved in one of the tightest finishes of the meeting. He took the race win after coming from behind early leader Robert Cairns. Cairns hit back in the final couple of laps, but just missed out by .3 of a second. Setting the fastest lap of the race, veteran George Scott was third, a further .3 of a second in arrears.

The Supersport 600 invitation was the final race run before practice recommenced. It showed who the main players were to be on the Saturday. Derek Sheils hit the front from the start, and even though he came under intense pressure, from firstly William Dunlop and then Derek McGee, he held on to take the race win by .2 of a second. McGee, one of the most promising road racers to come out of Ireland in a few years, finished in second place. The top two pulled away from a Dunlop brothers duel, which saw William edging out younger brother Michael by .2 of a second.

Ballymena rider Sam Wilson finished in 11th place, and was the first Group C rider. His fastest lap was 84.3mph. Dennis Booth took 17th position, having a quickest lap of 83mph while Randalstown’s Stephen McIlvenna was 20th, lapping at 80.8mph.

With the track still slightly damp in places after heavy early morning rain, the first race on Saturday morning was the Open A event. It was the same players as the previous night who were the main men, with the race win going to Derek Sheils. Riding a Kawasaki for Randalstowns Chris Dowd, Sheils finished .7 of a second ahead of Derek McGee. He had had a good lead, but slowed in the closing stages of the race, allowing second and third to catch him up. Michael and William Dunlop had been together on the road, but Michael retired at half way. That left William on his own in third.

Mark Hanna was our best local finisher, in 13th place. He crossed the line right on the rear wheel of Connor Behan, having set a fastest lap of 84.7mph. Jack McIlvenna finished in 20th place, lapping at 82.2mph.

The Open B race was being led by Daley Matheson, but he fell off at Mackneys, allowing Gareth Keys to take the lead on the road. On corrected time, however, the race win went to Richard McLoughlin. McLoughlin, who was on the footpath at Craigmount, started in the B Group, and when the time was calculated, he had won by 5.5 seconds. Keys finished in second place, under intense pressure from Paddy McColgan. Dennis Booth was the only local rider here, finishing in 9th place. Den lapped at 81.8mph.

The 125/Moto3 race was red flagged, and after a long delay was restarted over 3 laps of the 2.1 mile track. Again the early leader was Daley Matheson, but he fell at Craigmount. After that, William Cowden and Justin Waring had a good dice for the lead, with Cowden eventually coming out on top, by .2 of a second. After a troubled practice Nigel Moore, a previous 125 winner at Cookstown, started in the C Group, and took third place on corrected time. We had no local representation in this race.

The next race on the card was the Junior Support A. There was, quite simply, no one in the same league as Englishman Alastair Haworth. The man from Silecroft, who works at the Sellafield nuclear plant, blasted away from the line, and at the end of the opening lap had about 50 yards of a lead built up. He gradually increased on that until at the finish was 9.4 seconds ahead of Ben Rea. He, in turn, was some 3 seconds ahead of Melvyn Hollingsworth. Hollingsworth, in his first road race, had started in the B wave, and took third on corrected time.

Even though he was one of the fallers in the earlier 125 race, Phil Shaw won the 250 Classic event. On his 250 Suzuki, the English man was 6.7 seconds ahead of Scotlands Wattie Brown. Who was similarly mounted. Barry Davidson, from Glarryford, took third place, reunited with Sam Dempsters little 198 Honda.

The Supersport 600 A race was next up, and brought Michael Dunlop his first of 2 wins during the day. As earlier, the race soon developed into a good four way dice between the Dunlop brothers, and the two Dereks, McGee and Sheils. Setting the fastest lap of the race on the final circuit, Michael Dunlop grabbed the race win. He finished 1.4 ahead of Derek McGee, with Sheils right on McGee’s rear wheel. Sam Wilson was the best local rider here. Finishing in 9th place, the Ballymena rider had a fastest lap of 85.5mph. Mark Hanna from Antrim had a good race on his new Triumph. Finishing in 13th place he lapped at 83.3mph. Dennis Booth was 21st, lapping at 82.6mph, while Jack McIlvenna was only .3 behind, in 22nd place. Jacks fastest lap was 82.7mph.

Dave Hewson took a long overdue win in the Supersport 600 B race. The Lincolnshire man had to fight hard for the win too, as Banbridge rider Shaun Anderson held sway for much of the race. Hewson got ahead and despite setting the fastest lap of the race, Anderson could not retake him, losing out by only .1 of a second. On the Moira Motorcycle club Honda, Magherafelt rider Paul Jordan was third.

Barry Davidson, back on his own 350 Honda, was unstoppable in the 350 Classic race. He led right from the start and was never under any serious threat, winning by nearly 4 seconds.

Davie Hastings, who used to travel with the late and very much lamented Denis Gallagher, had a good race with Jonny Doran, only managing to break away from the Belfast rider towards the end of the 5 lap race. Davie was a seconds ahead at the line. Setting the fastest lap of the race, Barry Davidson was our only local finisher. He had a lap of 69.2mph.

James Neesom, who lives locally to the Olivers Mount circuit in Scarborough, had a hard race to win the Senior Support A race. Both he and Tom Robinson were wheel to wheel from start to finish, with the win going to Neesom, by .1 of a second. Thomas Maxwell was well back in third place.

Our only local rider in this race was Galgorm’s Neil Kernohan. He finished in 4th place on his R6, lapping at 80.6mph.

The 250 race was poorly supported, and to be brutally honest, wasn’t up to much. Antrim’s Mark Hanna was the early leader, but his TSR Honda stopped with a mechanical problem. Seamus Elliott was another rider who was in the running for a race win, but he too retired, leaving Skerries man Michael Sweeney to win by 9.4 seconds. Drogheda man John Ella benefitted most by Elliott and Hannas retirements, as it moved him up to second place.

Alastair Haworth cleared off to win the SS400 race with comparative ease. Well ahead of the great dice for the final podium places, Haworth pulled over 2 seconds a lap out of the rest of the field. Alastair Bayley,

Skerries man David Howy Howard and Paddy McColgan finished in that order, separated by little over half a second. No local riders took part in this race.

Robert McCrum won the Senior Classic race, with very little problem. Right from the start Bert took off, winning by just under 8 seconds. There was a good battle for the lower places, under 2 seconds separating second man Tony Willis, Marty Lyons, Billy Lyle and Gary Jamison.

The feature race of the day went to Dan Kneen, the Manxman who was riding for the John Burrows owned BE team. Kneen started in the B Group, and took the win on corrected time over William Dunlop, by .2 of a second. Derek McGee took third. Our only local interest here was Sam Wilson, who finished in a great 11th place. Sam pitted his R6 against full Superbikes and still gave a good account of himself. His quickest lap was 85.2mph.

Returning from a short time on the sidelines, Derek Costello won the Supertwins B race. Sadly, the bulk of spectators had begun to drift away, but those who stayed were treated to a good tight race. Costello had a hard time with Mark Sheilds, only managing to win by .4 of a second. Noel Murphy, winner of the earlier Junior Support B race, finished in third place, some 5 seconds behind.

RT&E backed Veronika Hankocyova took 7th, improving her lap times as the meeting went on. Her fastest lap of the weekend was 72.6mph, set on lap 2 of this race. Only local rider was Mark Hanna. Running well with the leaders, he was forced out on the second lap when his gear linkage broke.

Michael Dunlop took a start to finish win in the Supertwins A race. Micky D won by under a second, and was grinding the underside of the bike away on corners in an effort to stay ahead of second placed man Jamie Cowton. Despite setting the fastest lap of the race, Jamie Hamilton took third, a couple of seconds behind Cowton.

Sadly many people were already left when Gareth Keys took a win in the Cookstown 100 B race. More fool them, as it was one of the best races of the day. Shane Egan was the early leader, but slow starting Keys was always making ground on the Irish Junior Support champion.

In the closing stages, Keys, who recently became a father for the first time, slipped ahead, but could not get away from Egan or third placed Paddy McColgan. That was their finishing order, under a second separating the top three.


Well up there in my personal favourite list of race meetings, this weekend is the Tandragee 100. Roads close on Friday for practice at 3.30pm while on Saturday it’s a 10am closure.

I will, of course, have a full round up and photos in next weeks Times.