Belfast Telegraph

Motorsport: Old hand Joey leads them a merry dance

By Jimmy Walker

YOU'VE got to hand it to Joey Dunlop.

YOU'VE got to hand it to Joey Dunlop.

He's still the man you can count on to provide a show at the Ulster Grand Prix.

This was the case once again at the first official practice for Saturday's race where Joey leapt on board a new 750 Honda for the first time and zoomed to a speed of 109.15mph to take third place in the Superbike class.

It was certainly Joey's afternoon in my view for he also finished third in the 250cc practice with a speed of 99.63mph.

The big stars from Honda Britain, Michael Rutter and Ian Simpson were very much low key.

Simpson was passed fit after recovering from a broken arm and lapped in eighth position at 108.20mph and seemed to be feeling no ill effects while Rutter, who was obviously still finding his way round Dundrod, lapped at 103.42 in 15th place.

The rider who surprised everyone was Jason Griffiths who has had a poor season so far but managed to head the Regal 600 practice with a speed of 117.09 and pushed the Ulster boys down the field.

Griffiths was also second fastest in the Superbike at 110.72 behind Simon Beck who was on 114.32.

James Courtney, the star of Irish road racing in recent weeks was content with a 'running in' speed of 108.55 and filled fifth spot but obviously he will go faster today and will leave his heavy artillery for Saturday.

Owen McNally produced a surprise 'late card' when he rode the Kawasaki which Bob Jackson rode into second place at the Isle of Man TT.

McNally didn't let the side down and opened up with a speed of 98.59.

Obviously he was just getting used to the bike but this machine is a potent force.

Jackson it should be noted is still 'seriously ill' in hospital after his mid Antrim crash and is unlikely to ride again.

One unusual feature of yesterday's practice was the number of high class riders who failed to qualify.

James Courtney, Marc Fissette, the Belgian who almost beat Joey Dunlop last year, Gary Dynes and Richard Britton were all 'below the line' in the 250cc class.

And in the 125cc we had the absurd situation of Denis McCullough, Robert Dunlop, Mark Curtin and Owen McNally all failing to reach the top group.

Practice speeds, 125cc: Phelim Owens 105.84, Ian Lougher 105.57, Gary Dynes 105.48; Joey Dunlop 104.80, Darren Lindsay 104.22, Trevor Ritchie 103.11.

250cc: Donny Robinson 101.10, Ian Lougher 100.17, Joey Dunlop 99.63, Owen McNally 95.86, Neil Richardson 95.70, Ryan Farquhar 95.34.

Regal 600: Jason Griffiths 117.09, Adrian Archibald 116.08, James Courtney 116.08, Richard Britton 115.99, Adrian McFarland 115.18, Stephen Ferguson 114.93.

Superbike: Simon Beck 114.32, Jason Griffiths 110.72, Joey Dunlop 109.15, Iain Duffus 109.11, James Courtney 108.55, Ian Lougher 108.53.

Belfast Telegraph


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