Despite the absence of six-time winner Michael Laverty, tomorrow’s end of season Sunflower Trophy races at Bishopscourt, should provide a fitting climax to the 2011 motorcycling season, with a wealth of talent on show.
Headlining the event will be Hector and Philip Neill’s Relentless by TAS Suzuki team. Recently crowned British Supersport champion Alastair Seeley is the current jewel in their crown, and the Carrick man will be looking to add his name to Jim Finlay’s famous trophy for the first time.
With Josh Brookes back in sunnier climes Down Under, former team member and 2009 Sunflower Trophy champion with the team, Ian Lowry, has been drafted in for a one-off ride alongside Seeley.
Despite a low-key couple of seasons in the saddle, Lowry now has a vast Superbike experience. Last season he gained favour with Cumbrian businessman Paul Bird, taking in a handful of World Superbike rides on the factory Kawasaki, before moving back to BSB this term.
Having ridden BMW and Kawasaki machinery in British Superbike in 2011, Lowry is over-the-moon to be back with TAS Racing and as expected, believes he can take his second Sunflower victory.
“I’m itching to get at it,” smiled the former chef. I just can’t wait to finish the year on a high. I’ve won on the TAS bikes before but I’ve not ridden anything as good as these current bikes.”
When asked of the potential battle with Seeley, he confidently remarked: “Alastair’s doing a great job with the team, but I was well in front of him here last year on the Kawasaki and these bikes are even better.
“I’m confident I can win the Sunflower and that’s why I’m concentrating on the Superbike class this weekend.”
With Marshall Neill out injured, the Relentless Suzuki duo’s main opposition in the Superbike class should come from in-form Dubliner Jack Kennedy, riding a JMF sponsored R1 Yamaha.
Team owner Wilson Craig has filled the void left by Neill by taking on British Superstock regular David Johnson — the Isle of Man TT’s top newcomer in 2010. The Aussie will partner local man William Dunlop in the Londonderry-based team line-up.
Within the ‘big class’, the Irish Superbike Championship will also be decided this weekend. Greyabbey’s Kirk Jamison carries a 36-point lead into the final two races over Randalstown’s Matthew Percy.
While the Superbikes usually hog the headlines, the Supersport class should be the most closely contested.
Seeley will roll out his British Championship winning bike, hoping to take his 12th and 13th victories this season, but it won’t be all plain sailing.
Parkalgar Honda World Supersport star Sam Lowes will be back on the Sunflower grid, having enjoyed his debut last year; and this time he will be partnered by local favourite Michael Dunlop.
It’s £20 per adult for the two-day event over Friday and Saturday with practice today from 9am and racing on Saturday from 10.30am.