Sweeney sets pace on Manx GP anniversary
Michael Sweeney was fastest in qualifying for the 90th Manx Grand Prix which roars into action today with the three-class Newcomers races followed by the Junior Manx, won last year by Dundalk rider Wayne Kirwan.
Thirty-seven-year old Sweeney clocked 117.338mph on his R6 Yamaha with Stephen McKnight from Dromore, Co Down second on his R6 at 116.605mph just over seven seconds slower.
McKnight starts number one on the road with Sweeney 60 seconds later at number seven, which may give the Skerries rider a slight advantage.
Another Skerries rider, 36-year old Andy Farrell, competes for the Martin Bullock Motorsport Team, the most successful outfit in Manx GP history.
Bullock, an Isle of Man businessman now in his 25th year of supporting competitors, has notched up an astonishing 29 wins in that time.
Four of those were with Irish riders – Gavin Bell in 2005, Seamus Greene in 2005 and Andrew Brady, who completed a Junior and Senior Manx double in 2011.
Last year's Newcomers winners Kamil Holan from the Czech Republic and Jamie Cowton will also provide stiff competition.
Other local riders on the grid for the Junior Manx include Brian Mateer, Denis Booth, Stephen Carr, Rodney Little and Gary Fowler.
The Newcomers 'A' race over four laps is very difficult to predict as the 33 competitors are all, of course, new to the extremely challenging 37.75 miles Mountain Circuit.
Fastest newcomer was a relatively unknown 19-year old Australian rider, Alexander Pickett, on board an 848cc Ducati, with a speed of 114.810mph, some 21secs faster than the field.
Jason Corcoran, Richard McLoughlin and Neil Lyons are the Irish competitors in this race.
The 'B' class has 24 starters with two Isle of Man riders likely to be front runners – 23-year old Callum Collister fastest in qualifying over a minute ahead of Joe Faragher, who rides a 650cc KMR Kawasaki powered by Vauxhall Dealers NI for Ryan Farquhar.
RJ Woolsey from Portadown, also KMR Kawasaki mounted, and Roy McClarnon from Cushendall, riding a SV650 Suzuki, will seek to uphold local honour.
In class 'C' only seven riders come under starters orders with Skerries racer David Howard the most likely to give Ben Rea, fastest in practice, a run for the win, as they were the only competitors over 100mph on their 400cc machines.