Belfast Telegraph

McCallen stays in the fast lane for five-timer

PHILLIP McCallen may not be old enough to remember the television series

'Man on a Tightrope'.

But he is giving a good impression of the hero as he bids for a five

But he is giving a good impression of the hero as he bids for a five timer at tomorrow's Ulster Grand Prix over the Dundrod circuit and at the same time winds himself up for a major international meeting at Brands Hatch the following day.

During the week he has been practising for both events and one might ask with some justification _ what does he do for an encore?But McCallen is used to living in the fast lane and this sort of schedule is not unknown to him. Last year you'll recall, he practised for the North West 200 and still managed to fit in a few sessions in Germany where he rode in the Thunderbike series the day after the North West.

He's that sort of guy who gets things done quickly, and, by the way, he was married last Saturday!Speed is the name of the game as far as McCallen is concerned and no doubt some of his opposition in tomorrow's showpiece, which is being staged in associationwith the Belfast Telegraph, may be tempted to have a quick look at the airline schedule just in case Phillip might miss his flight tonight from Heathrow.

I'm sure that with Joey Dunlop a non starter, the promoters of the Ulster are having nightmares over this one!McCallen, though, is now the man they'll all have to beat since Joey the Legend has decided to spectate at Dundrod instead of trying to ride round it in something like three and a half minutes.

McCallen is the man who can do that and more and he must be a red hot favourite for that unique five- timer, although he will never be foolish enough to predict more than one win. He knows there are a lot of pitfalls in this game.

As expected McCallen has taken the practice sessions by the scruff of the neck. He has done as he's pleased, having been fastest on Wednesday night with a speed of 121.25 mph and that should be good enough to win both superbike races tomorrow with opposition not of the quality you'd expect at an Ulster Grand Prix.

McCallen is also going for both 250 cc races and here he had something of a shock for the found himself in third place after the practice sessions.

Man to top the leader board was Dungannon's Phelim Owens who will be race riding his new Aprilia in a road event for the first time.

Owens is a class act in this sport, one of the few riders with real potential on short circuits as well as roads that Ulster has produced in recent years and while he is hot favourite for the 125cc class, a division he leads in the British Supercup, he is also out to prove that he can handle a 250 as well.

McCallen, though, is unperturbed about Owens edging him out of 250 pole position. 'My clutch was slipping and I had to put in a new one' he said.

'It'll be alright on the day.'Ian Lougher was runner-up to Owens in this class last night with a speed of 116.83 mph which was slightly faster that McCallen's best speed on Wednesday night when he headed practice.

But last night McCallen didn't try to improve on this for he concentrated on the 600 cc class which was on the track at the same time as the 250s.

So is it all going to be too easy for McCallen? The most obvious looking solutions don't always turn up when you wnat them and there could be one or two upsets for there's nothing certain in ay type of racing.

McCallen, don't forget, also has Brands Hatch on his mind but he did concede that with Joey put off the way his chances of a major haul were much higher.

'He's the best rider round the Dundrod circuit' he said. 'His absence must take some pressure off me and I only hope I don't make the mistake of taking things too easily.'Taking the meeting race by race McCallen must feel the has to counter the Owens threat early on and he may not be able to beat him in both 250 races. My view is that Owens will win one of the Junior classes for he has a quick enough bike to give himself every chance.

Denis McCullough is another Ulster rider who is a road racer of the highest calibre and he too has been practising at high speeds. Lougher may get into a place but I can't see him winning and of the others Jason Griffiths, Owen McNally and perhaps comeback kid James Courtney might help to shake things up.

Owens looks certain to win the 125 barring a fall, as they say.

McCullough again looks good for a place in the frame while Gary Dynes, who won last week's Temple, Englishman Gavin Lee and McNally are all in with some sort of chance.

As for Robert Dunlop, although I'm glad to see him racing, I don't see him being fast enough to cause any threat to the established order. Two years is a long time to be out of action and Dundrod takes no prisoners.

The best Robert may do is squeeze into sixth place. I think he'll be doing well at that.

The 600 cc looks to be the usual McCallen benefit. He has a marvellous record in this class both at the North West and the Ulster and he should continue the trend.

The two superbike races must be won by McCallen unless he has some sort of trouble with the RC 45 Honda. Lap record holder Griffiths will be the man he has to beat but the Welshman doesn't appear to be the force he was when he set the record two years ago.

The sidecar races look interesting and my vote goes to Rob Fisher in the Open and Kenny Howles in the Formula Two.

There is also a Classic race and Bob Jackson who won last night's opener for the third year running on corrected time also lifted the 250 cc class is obviously the man to follow.


From Belfast Telegraph