British Superbike Championship: Gutted Farmer knows best is to come
The British Superbike Championship goes into showdown mode this weekend at Assen in the Netherlands – the one-off Dutch event kick-starting the remaining three rounds of the 2013 series – with just Silverstone on October 6 and Brands Hatch on October 20 remaining on the calendar to decide this year's champion.
Local interest in the premier class is limited to Hector and Philip Neill's Tyco Suzuki team, while Carrickfergus ace Alastair Seeley is battling it out with Stuart Easton in Supersport.
Tyco Suzuki have Newtownards-based Australian Josh Brookes still in the Superbike title hunt, albeit 17 points behind leader Shane Byrne on the Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki and 11 adrift of second placed Alex Lowes on the Samsung Honda.
Byrne is looking for a record-breaking fourth BSB title to overhaul Niall Mackenzie (1996/97/98), Ryuichi Kiyonari (2006/07/10) and John Reynolds (1992 TT F1 title; Superbike in 2001, 2004) who like Byrne (2003/08/12) have all won the title on three occasions.
This weekend Byrne will have a new team-mate in Japanese veteran Nori Haga, who will replace Clogher rider Keith Farmer.
The series rookie and former British Superstock 600 and 1000cc champion has reportedly been advised to sit out the remainder of the season with a debilitating injury.
Despite social media sites speculating that PBM Motorsport had "dumped" the Northern Ireland rider, his team were keen to point out that should he be fit enough to compete again this season, then a third Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki would be turned out.
The chances are Farmer will sit out the remaining three rounds of the BSB season, then challenge for the Sunflower Trophy with Paul Bird's team – who are long time supporters of the Bishopscourt event – on October 26.
A British championship title is almost guaranteed in the Supersport class, but the big question is – will it be going to a Northern Ireland team or rider?
Seeley, twice a British champion already, has watched an almost unassailable lead disappear before his very eyes over a two-week period following crashes and injury setbacks at Cadwell Park and Donington Park.
From being over 40 points to the good, the Gearlink Kawasaki rider now trails Tim and Sonya Martin's Temple-based Mar-Train Racing team and their wily Scottish employee Easton by eight points going into Assen.
Seeley has suffered arm, back and rib damage from the two crashes but can no longer work on a damage limitation game plan as he needs to hunt down Easton in the Netherlands – which will mean fighting through the pain barrier.
"I've been flat out getting physiotherapy with David Anderson in Dromore and was even in the Oxygen Therapy Centre recently, sucking away on the good stuff to help heal the bones," joked the Carrick man.
"I'm more or less all cleared up now apart from the rib damage.
"It's on the lower left hand side and while it's not too bad, if you hit me a dig down there I'd jump through the roof!"
Well known to be a hard as nails competitor, the 10 times winner at the International North West 200 dropped the humour and, on a more serious note, concluded: "I'm going to grin and bear it and get stuck in.
"I've got some decent information from the top World Supersport boys for this weekend, so I'll be looking to keep Stuart firmly in my sights."