Super Sheils lays down a marker to rival Dunlop
Dubliner Derek Sheils set the blueprint for today’s Open class races at the KDM Cookstown 100, having scorched to the pole position time aboard his Cookstown B.E Racing Suzuki.
A double Superbike winner at last year’s event, it would take a brave man to bet against Sheils today on current form, with fellow southerner Derek McGee set to line up alongside him on the grid in second place. Ballymoney’s William Dunlop is third on the Temple Golf Club R1 Yamaha.
Dunlop starts on pole position in the Supersport class aboard his IC/Caffrey R6 Yamaha and will be looking to make amends after losing out to McGee at last weekend’s Tandragee 100.
Young guns Adam McLean and last year’s man of the meeting, Paul Jordan, will join Dunlop on the front row of the middleweight class grid, with McGee tucked in behind them on row two alongside a surprise late entrant in the Supersport class in the form of Guy Martin.
Martin secured a late deal to ride for his former team boss Wilson Craig aboard his Honda, but it’s in the Superbike class where the Lincolnshire man, a double winner at the 2015 KDM Hire Cookstown 100, will be looking to excel — if not this week, then at the upcoming North West 200 and Isle of Man TT, riding alongside John McGuinness in the official Honda Racing team.
Martin, who crashed out of last week’s Tandragee 100 on lap one, said of Honda’s all-new SP2: “It’s all about learning and at the moment there’s a lot of learning to be done.
“Don’t get me wrong, we need to test, but nothing compares to racing.”
And racing is exactly what he will be doing today at Cookstown, but he will need to up his game if he’s to trouble Sheils and co in the Superbike class on the Orritor circuit.
Roads close this morning at 10am for a full race programme.
Elsewhere, Ballyclare’s Jonathan Rea, the reigning double World Superbike champion, is aiming to maintain his impressive start to the season having won five of the opening six races this season with his Kawasaki Racing Team.
Rea topped yesterday’s opening sessions during round four at Assen in the Netherlands, a venue where the Ulsterman has already posted nine career wins, and he will be gunning for a 10th today in the opening race of the weekend as he aims to stretch his 50-point lead in the series even further.
Rea said: “I am really satisfied with how Friday went as we managed to set up the bike and confirm the use of some suspension items we have been testing recently. I pretty much made a full race simulation and I now know the critical areas we need to improve in, to be strong at the end of the races.”
Chaz Davies, the only other rider to have won a race this season in World Superbike, pushed his Aruba.it Ducati into second place in yesterday’s second free practice session, just a tenth of a second behind Rea, with the Ulsterman’s team-mate Tom Sykes within striking distance of Davies in third place.
Jordi Torres (BMW), Lorenzo Salvador (Milwaukee Aprilia) and Leon Camier (MV Agusta) rounded out the top six, but more importantly for Ulster fans was the appearance of Toomebridge ace Eugene Laverty in seventh on the second Milwaukee Aprilia.
This puts Laverty through to this morning’s all-important Q2 session, guaranteeing a race start on the first four rows of the grid, but he will undoubtedly be looking for more than that.
Laverty said: “Our pace is looking good at the moment, and I think we’ll be able to challenge for a top-five finish in race one. That would be ideal, but we will see what happens in Superpole 2 first.” Race one takes place at 12pm UK time today with race two tomorrow, also at 12pm.