Comeback king Ryan Rainey's Super step up in class
Ryan Rainey's comeback success in 2015 may not find itself in the history books alongside the likes of global motorcycling icon Mike Hailwood, who returned to win at the Isle of Man TT following an 11-year break back in 1978.
The nine-time world champion and 14-time Isle of Man TT winner is arguably the most talented and versatile human being to ever race a motorcycle, but Crumlin lad Rainey fully deserves the plaudits for his comeback achievements locally this season.
After eight years away from the sport, the 34-year-old father-of-two lifted this year's Irish Superbike short circuit title on the IFS Global Logistics Yamaha R1M, thanks to a consistent season, which included five wins, and the support of well-known local sponsor Graeme Hanna.
I caught up with Rainey in Birmingham on Monday at the Motorcycle Live show in the NEC, where he reflected on his successful return to racing, and shared with me with some fantastic news ahead of his 2016 ISB title defence.
"I suppose winning the championship after so long away from the sport was a little unexpected, but having the support of Graeme Hanna - who has become as much a friend as a sponsor - was a massive help," explained the Crumlin man, who is set to defend his title in 2016 in the same IFS Global Logistics Yamaha squad - albeit on a brand new bike.
Finding it hard to hide his delight at the new project, Rainey said: "We are currently having a World Superbike specification Yamaha R1M being built by the Yamaha Austria Racing Team with Marcus Eschenbacher building the engines."
Eschenbacher, as we have previously reported, took both Chaz Davies and Cal Crutchlow to World Supersport titles and is a well-known engine guru when it comes to Yamaha machinery.
The model being built for the IFS Yamaha team will run Yamaha's YEC electronics, which is the only difference from the full-on Marelli powered WSB machines. But there will be little change out of €80,000.
Team owner Graeme Hanna also took Bangor lad Robert English to the Irish Supersport and Mondello Masters titles in 2015 after a prolific effort that included 14 race wins.
Of the new venture, Graeme said:"I don't go racing just to see bikes going round in circles. My interest is seeing quality machinery on track as that's what makes me tick. So that's why we've opted for the higher specification Yamaha R1 for 2016, a bit like we did back in 1999 when we purchased a factory Ducati for James Courtney."
MD at Antrim based IFS Global Logistics, Hanna has also decided to move young English into the Irish Superbike class in 2016, where he will race the team's fully refreshed championship-winning R1 alongside Rainey.
"Robert won three championships for us last year and is worthy of the support," explained Hanna, whose successful team will also see continued backing from Oxford Products, Leakmaster, WD40 and Townparks Antrim in 2016.
"We will field two IFS Global Logistics Yamaha R1s. This will allow Ryan the opportunity to defend his title as well as challenging for some of these lap records; and in turn give Robert a new challenge to get his teeth into," said Hanna, whose support in racing has extended far and wide over the years.
Record-breaking national road racer James Courtney benefited from his support as previously mentioned, with Hanna's own IFS Yamaha team taking John McGuinness to a TT double in 2004. He is also currently involved with Michael and Eugene Laverty and has supported former GP racer Jeremy McWilliams to name but a few.
More recently he's been involved with the Padgetts' Honda team, but I had to ask, with a World Superbike specification Yamaha R1 in his 'garage' would a return to the TT not be very tempting.
"No is the answer," he said without fear or favour.
"I think Tim Martin's Mar-Train team will do a good enough job on the roads for Yamaha. I'm not against road racing and am an avid fan, but for now we will concentrate on the job in hand in Irish Superbike.
"But I'll never say never," he concluded openly.