Tomorrow’s Sunflower Trophy Races at Bishopscourt is Irish motorycling’s end of season showpiece, and it’s shaping up to be a real classic with British and World Championship teams on the grid.
Since the event moved to the Co Down venue in 2002, Michael Laverty boasts five winners’ inscriptions on Jim Finlay’s famous trophy, and the 29-year-old British Superbike star is confident of making it six tomorrow.
It has been three years since the Suzuki rider won the trophy, stopped in his tracks by Michael Rutter in 2008 and first time winner Ian Lowry just 12months ago.
Lowry and Laverty were Sunflower team-mates at last year’s event with Relentless Suzuki, but the current holder has switched allegiance to Kawasaki, and will turn out for Cumbrian businessman Paul Bird’s World Superbike Team.
The aforementioned pair will certainly not have it all their own way, as Laverty’s Relentless Suzuki team-mate Alastair Seeley is chasing his first Sunflower victory.
And even closer to home, there us a challenge from Laverty’s younger brother John, who will make a welcome Bishopscourt return with Buildbase Kawasaki.
John missed out on racing last year, after breaking his collarbone in a Bishopscourt practice crash, and adding in already crowned Irish Superbike Champion Marshall Neill to that mix, it promises to be a feast of Superbike action.
Neill won this season’s ISB Championship with five races to spare, but will ride Wilson Craig’s Honda at the Sunflower, normally campaigned by larger than life road racer Guy Martin.
No less than five British Championship riders take to the grid in the Supersport class. Newly-crowned champion Sam Lowes will make his Bishopscourt debut aboard Eugene Laverty’s World Championship machine.
It will be the 20-year-old’s first chance to sample the Parkalgar Honda before joining them on the world stage next season.
Others worthy of a mention are James Westmoreland, runner up in this year’s BSS series and making a one-off appearance for Relentless Suzuki; Aussie Billy McConnell, riding for Temple based Mar-Train Racing; Swan Honda BSB rider James Ellison, who will partner Lowes in the Parkalgar team and Dublin’s Jack Kennedy.
Current Irish Supersport Champion Glenn Irwin is relishing the challenge and should be more than capable of running with the aforementioned stars on a Gearlink Kawasaki.
Ryan Farquhar, William Dunlop and Manx GP winner Michael Sweeney will also be on the grid, as will former World Sidecar champions Tim Reeves and Ben Birchall.
The 13-race programme kicks off at 10am tomorrow morning. The entrance fee is £15, and this year’s programme will go on sale at £3 with a substantial donation made to a local charity.
Meanwhile, World Superbike stars Jonathan Rea and Eugene Laverty will be joined by International Road Racers Keith Amor, Ryan Farquhar and Conor Cummins in a star studded chat show at Carrowdore Community Centre tonight from 7pm.
The current crop of two wheel stars will be joined by a trio of local legends in Brian Reid, Leslie McMaster and Michael Swann.
The event is hosted by Irish Racer magazine in conjunction with Eddie Irvine Sports Bangor, and a number of tickets are still available by calling 07779 787933.