The Relentless Suzuki team had a new recruit in their ranks during yesterday’s private test session at Kirkistown, where road racing regulars Bruce Anstey and Cameron Donald were putting in some final preparations for the forthcoming Ulster Grand Prix.
Portrush based professional golfer, and self-confessed bike fan, Graeme McDowell, arrived at the Ards Peninsula venue not knowing quite what to expect, after his father Kenny had organised a ‘pillion in a million’ ride with TT legend Bruce Anstey as an early 30th birthday present.
The 2008 Barclays Scottish Open winner, who is 30 tomorrow, had never even sat on a motorcycle before yesterday’s run out with the Relentless Suzuki team, but fully enjoyed the experience, even if he did look a tad sheepish beforehand.
McDowell said: “I didn’t get much of chance to be nervous as the boys had me in the leathers as soon as I arrived.
“Cameron Donald showed me what to do before I went out; after that I just tried to relax.
“Bruce took it easy for the first couple of laps — although I though he was going quick enough — then he really opened it up.
“It was an unbelievable adrenaline rush and a real buzz. I just tried to relax like Cameron told me through the corners, but the sense of speed on the straights was amazing and the acceleration superb.”
He continued: “I’ve really started at the top, but would I buy a bike after this? Well I’ll have to learn to ride one first!”
Seven times TT winner Bruce Anstey, normally a man of few words, was impressed with his Kirkistown pupil stating: “I did a couple of laps just to get warmed up, then I really gave it some.
“For never having been on a bike before, Graeme was a pretty confident pillion.
“I’m sure we were touching 140mph along Kirkistown’s back straight and I popped a couple of wheelies, which he seemed to enjoy. I think it’ll be a 30th birthday present he wont forget in a hurry.”
McDowell entertained his hosts after the pillion ride, hitting a few golf balls in that familiar style of his, also presenting team manager and golfing enthusiast Philip Neill with his Callaway driver at the end of the day.
The Relentless Suzuki team returned the gesture, presenting Graeme with a signed helmet.
After lunch, the more serious action took place with both Donald and Anstey completed numerous laps, setting up the team’s machinery in preparation for the Ulster Grand Prix. Donald, who had been convalescing at home in Oz after his TT crash, only returned to Northern Ireland on Monday morning but enjoyed his first run out since June.
Donald said: “I haven’t got the flexibility I need just yet with my shoulder, but I do have the strength. I’ve had some injections in the rotator cuff, which were very painful, but I’ll use next week’s British Superstock round at Brands as practice for the Ulster. To make any predictions I’d need a crystal ball at this stage, but we’ll not be too far away.”
Meanwhile, former Relentless Suzuki rider BJ Toal has joined the Centurion Racing team for the remainder of the 2009 British Supersport Championship. 22-year-old Toal had been struggling to match the performances of his Suzuki team-mate Alastair Seeley in the British Superstock class, and after an amicable split with the Moneymore outfit, the Omagh lad will make his Centurion Racing debut at Brands Hatch on August 9.