Belfast Telegraph

We're on track for another big year for local racing

By Paul Lindsay

The year 2015 will be remembered as the most successful for local motorcycling since 1986 when the late, great Joey Dunlop won his fifth consecutive TT Formula 1 World title, with Brian Reid making it a double for the province when he lifted the TT Formula 2 crown for the second time.

Ballyclare's Jonathan Rea honoured both of his heroes in style when, after seven years in the series, he finally lifted the World Superbike trophy - a first for Northern Ireland, but more importantly for his employers Kawasaki, a debut constructors' title.

The 28-year-old's dominance in 2015, which saw 14 race victories on the ZX-10R Kawasaki, doubled his career win tally in World Superbike. This included five double triumphs and a championship success by 132 points over second-placed man Chaz Davies.

Rea, who celebrated his championship success at Jerez in Spain by wearing Dunlop's famous yellow Arai helmet design and Reid's white and red version, is hot favourite to be crowned Cornmarket Irish Motorcyclist of the Year at the end of January in Belfast.

Unfortunately, however, the Manx-based Ulsterman was overlooked in the shortlist for honours when the BBC brought their glittering Sports Personality of the Year event to Belfast earlier this month.

Apart from Rea's switch from Honda to Kawasaki, it was truculent Ballymoney road racing ace Michael Dunlop who was making all the headlines at the beginning of 2015.

The then 25-year-old made the switch to Yamaha machinery with Shaun Muir's Milwaukee Yamaha squad, where he was set to race the Japanese manufacturer's all-new and proposed all-conquering YZF-R1M to victory in June at the Isle of Man TT.

It was set to be the perfect love affair.

But as author Joan Crawford once penned, 'Love is a fire; but whether it's going to warm your heart or burn your house down, you can never tell'.

Sadly for Muir and his Milwaukee Yamaha team, with Dunlop it was the latter.

The 11-time TT winner just didn't gel with the Yamaha and after only three laps of practice on Mona's Isle, he dumped the new machinery in favour of a return to the BMW Motorrad set-up which brought him three wins in 2014.

At the time, Dunlop said: "I can't thank Shaun Muir enough for his support and bringing me into the team and I am genuinely sorry to be making this decision, but unfortunately I don't think we have got enough time left to be truly competitive and get the bike to the level we need in order to win races here."

Despite crashing out in the Superbike TT - and having to stretcher his brother William off the circuit the following day - Michael did put in the second fastest lap ever recorded at the event in the blue-riband Senior with a staggering effort of 132.515mph.

If that's what he can do injured, one wonders what 2016 has in store when we expect him to be back on the German brand, again in Buildbase livery with Stuart Hicken's team.

Dunlop and Rea hold our biggest hopes for success in 2016 in the aforementioned disciplines.

But with Alastair Seeley still the undoubted NW200 master, Michael Laverty showing his prowess with a final day victory for Tyco BMW in British Superbike and Josh Elliott the reigning British Isles Superstock 1000cc champion, this part of the world should have plenty to shout about once again at the end of next season.

Belfast Telegraph


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