Super-charged Dan Kneen is the man to watch at Tandragee
Mar-Train Racing new recruit Dan Kneen was a double Superbike winner on his Tandragee 100 debut back in 2014, which landed him the Man of the Meeting award at the famous County Armagh circuit.
Back then Suzuki machinery was the hardware of choice for Kneen, but having joined Saintfield based Mar-Train Racing for the 2016 season, the 28-year-old is very much looking forward to campaigning the all-new YZF-R1M and hugely successful R6 bikes this weekend at Tandragee, with team boss Tim Martin's Yamaha UK-supported outfit.
"I'm starting to get on well with the R1. Yes it's a lot different to anything I've ridden before - it's more like a 600, it turns well and seems to be quick enough, but we really won't know what to expect until we get to Tandragee on Friday," said the Manxman.
Kneen had a minor blip during pre-season testing at Cartagena in Spain with his new team but, after dusting off his leathers, he bounced back to four podiums at the Mondello Masters event at Bishopscourt.
More impressive was the fact that it was his first time at the County Down short-circuit venue, and with another day of testing at Kirkistown under his belt yesterday, it's fair to say that Mar-Train Racing could have finally found their man.
"They are a good bunch of lads who enjoy a good laugh, but they also want to do well, which is what I'm all about, so it suits me fine," said Kneen, who wouldn't be drawn on any predictions for the Saturday's big races.
"The team has no experience of Tandragee with this bike, so it could be a bit of a challenge. We will just have to suck it and see, but I'm looking forward to it."
The 56th Around-A-Pound Tandragee 100 gets underway tomorrow for practice and qualifying with a nine-race programme schedule for Saturday.
Kneen will be joined on the grid by top-flight local racers Derek Sheils (the opening day Grand Final winner at the Mid Antrim 150), William Dunlop and Ryan Farquhar to name but a few.
Dungannon man Farquhar will be campaigning his IEG BMW Superstock bike, along with his usual raf of KMR Kawasaki powered machinery.
Ballymoney's William Dunlop will campaign his Dowd/Curran Racing R6 Yamaha, but the reigning Irish National Road Racing Superbike champion is still unsure whether he will have 1,000cc machinery at his disposal this weekend.
The man, or should I say team, they will all have to watch out for is the Cookstown B.E Racing squad. Dublin's Derek Sheils and man-of-the-moment, young Malachi Mitchell-Thomas, virtually cleaned up the Mid Antrim 150, which raised the curtain on this year's national scene.
Quiet man Sheils will undoubtedly be an ever-present at the head of proceedings in the 1000cc races this season at National level on John Burrows' ultra-fast Suzuki but, despite a hat-trick at Mid Antrim, this will be a sterner test for his young team-mate Mitchell-Thomas, who will need to treat Tandragee with respect.
Derek McGhee opted out of the bar-to-bar action at Mid Antrim due to the changeable conditions, but also BMW-mounted, the hard-charging Mullingar man is sure to be in the mix, in what promises to be a superb day's racing around what is arguably, the best national road racing circuit in Ireland.