The Irish national road racing season explodes into action this weekend with the Royal Hotel Braeside Cookstown 100, one of the most eagerly awaited meetings of the season with a quality line-up of competitors gracing the short demanding 2.1mile Orritor Circuit.
Heading the entry list will be current lap record holder — and a four time winner last year — Ryan Farquhar with a stable of KMR Kawasakis in domineering form already this season having won seven races from seven starts at the recent Spring National meeting at Scarborough.
The 35-year old from Dungannon holds the record for the most national road race wins and this weekend could well break another record, closing in on Joey Dunlop’s combined total of 156 national and international wins on the Irish roads. Farquhar currently has 155.
Farquhar said: “I have had a great start to the season. I’ve got a brand new ZX-10R Kawasaki and it will be interesting to see how it goes on the local roads.
“There were a few handling issues at Scarborough, which I hope to have fixed for this weekend. I have been busy preparing not only my own machines, but also the supertwin Adrian Archibald will ride for me this season and also building bikes for Sandor Bitter, who will ride in KMR colours.
“Cookstown should be an interesting meeting and with Cameron Donald, Guy Martin and the Dunlops all entered it will not be easy getting a win.”
Donald, a double Cookstown winner in 2007, had a perfect weekend at Bishopscourt and Kirkistown over Easter where he notched up ten wins from ten starts.
“It doesn’t get much better than that does it?” he says.
“However, those wins count for nothing, as this is the first road race of the season and a whole new ball game.
“The Wilson Craig Hondas are good and the team worked well, so I’m looking forward to getting going at Cookstown where I ran Ryan close last year.”
Martin’s only victory at Cookstown came in 2003 when he won the senior support race and he has not ridden here since 2005, but you can never discount the Lincolnshire ace, who rides for the local Relentless Suzuki by TAS team.
“I’ve done plenty of testing, but it’s hard to beat a bit of pure road racing and this is the opportunity to try the bikes on a road circuit prior to the North West,” he says.
“I haven’t been here in a while and we will be realistic about our expectations, but it is a little track and we should be fine.”
Michael Dunlop also has a new Street Sweep ZX-10 Kawasaki to complement his Supersport R6 Yamaha and he can never be discounted with winning races the number one goal, while William will ride not only the Wilson Craig Supersport and Superbike Hondas but also a 250GP Honda prepared by Michael and a Delaney 125GP Honda in the two-stroke classes in which he was a double winner last year.
Neither Dunlop has won a four-stroke race at Cookstown and both will be itching to break that duck come Saturday.
The Cookstown Club have put together a quality entry including John Burrows, Davy Morgan, Adrian Archibald, Czech rider Michal Dokoupil, Michael Pearson, Michael Sweeney and Brian McCormack to name but a few.
Practice takes place this afternoon; roads close at 2.30pm while on Saturday roads close at 10am ahead of an 18-race programme scheduled to commence at 10.30am.