The stage is set for a road racing spectacular this weekend with Aussie Cameron Donald going head-to-head with the formidable Ryan Farquhar in the Royal Hotel and Braeside Cookstown 100.
Relentless Suzuki TAS rider Donald, a double winner of the Supersport and Cookstown 100 open races in 2007, lives about a mile from the circuit when he is racing in the UK and he will use the meeting as preparation for the Relentless North West 200 in association with Blackhorse, now just three weeks away.
Melbourne man Donald is an adopted son of Cookstown and is using the event as a way of getting ready for the tough season ahead.
“It’s been three years since I last rode in a national road race and I will be looking to get extra race mileage on my Superstock and Supersport machines,” he said. “It really was a last minute decision to do this particular meeting, as racing miles are much better than just doing testing sessions.
“I am however putting no pressure on myself whatsoever this weekend.
“If we manage to claim some top results that’ll be a bonus.”
What a sizzling meeting to look forward to, with Farquhar the most prolific Irish national road racer in the history of the sport coming into the meeting on the back of winning eight races at Scarborough last weekend.
William Dunlop has had two top six place finishes in the opening two rounds of the 125GP British Championship events and his brother Michael, man-of-the-meeting at Cookstown last year, also a double Irish champion in the 125GP and 250GP classes as well as being runner-up in the Supersport 600 and open classes.
Also in action are Michael Pearson, the winner of the last major open race of the 2009 season at Killalane and a four-time runner-up having finished runner-up to Farquhar at that Scarborough meeting, plus Adrian Archibald also a podium finisher at Scarborough.
It should be a sensational opening to the 2010 ‘between the hedges’ action with all these top riders clashing in at least three races on the 16-race programme.
A relaxed Farquhar, the winner of an amazing 61 races last year, takes in five races tomorrow — the 125GP/Moto450 race on his new 450cc Kawasaki, Supertwins, Supersport, open and feature events — and said: “I’m just looking for a safe, steady day at Cookstown and if that takes me to race wins so be it.”
The 125GP opposition to Farquhar comes in the shape of the Ballymoney quartet William, Michael, Sam Dunlop and Paul Robinson, making his Cookstown 100 debut, while in the Supertwins race Barry Davidson, John Burrows and Gerry Daniel will be looking to dethrone Farquhar, who has yet to lose a race in this class on Irish roads.
Farquhar, a fiercely competitive rider, will relish the challenge, coming particularly from Donald, this weekend as he continues the defence of his Duke Road Race Rankings title already leading the 2010 series following his clean sweep at Scarborough, but the opposition in the shape of Donald and the Dunlop boys will be keen to lower his colours.
Top female road racer Maria Costello MBE will contest the junior support and 400cc events.
Practice and qualifying gets under way this afternoon with roads closing at 2.30pm, while tomorrow the roads close at 10am with the first race for junior support riders starting at 10.20am.