Belfast Telegraph

Elliott leads NI challenge as Irwin struggles


Well placed: Josh Elliott finished in sixth after free practice at Silverstone
Well placed: Josh Elliott finished in sixth after free practice at Silverstone

By Roy Harris

The sun shone at Silverstone for the first two free practice sessions of the 2019 British Superbike Championship season, where the McAms Yamaha pair of Jason O'Halloran and Tarran MacKenzie ended the day one-two.

Australian O'Halloran was inside the existing lap record and three tenths faster than his young Scottish rival MacKenzie as he threw the gauntlet down to the rest of the field.

It was a disappointing day for Carrick's Glenn Irwin on his debut for the 2018 Championship-winning Quattro Plant JG Speedfit Kawasaki team, finishing down in 14th position just less than a second off the pace - although that is an eternity on the short 1.64-mile National circuit.

The best of the Ulster runners was Balinamallard's Josh Elliott (OMG Suzuki) in sixth position with his first session time of 54.209 seconds. To put things into context, a mere second covered the top 15 riders in the blistering second session in which Clogher's Keith Farmer finished in 10th position.

His Tyco BMW team-mate Christian Iddon was in fifth and best of the new BMWs. Andrew Irwin was the top Honda in 11th, four tenths faster than his ex-World Superbike team-mate Xavi Fores and 0.622 seconds behind O'Halloran's 53.775 time.

And what of the PBM Be Wiser Ducatis, so dominant in World Superbikes? Josh Brookes was fourth fastest, 0.4 seconds behind the leading time, after leading the way in session one, while ex-Grand Prix team-mate Scott Redding was eighth fastest and half a second off the pace.

David Allingham - on his BSB debut - aboard the EHA Yamaha was 25th fastest, a second and a half down on first.

The expected fireworks in Supersport saw defending champion Jack Kennedy end the day two tenths faster than his Integro Yamaha team-mate Brad Jones, with Alastair Seeley three one hundredths back in third.

Fermanagh's Lee Johnston, returning to British Supersport, was a creditable fifth fastest, 0.7sec behind Kennedy's 56.119sec lap.

Next best of the local contingent was 14th-fastest Richard Kerr, Eugene McManus was 16th, Ross Patterson 17th and Jason Lynn 20th of the 29 competitors.

Superstock 600 saw Ballynahinch rider Korie McGreevy head the time sheets from Aaron Clifford by just 0.053sec, with Kevin Keyes fifth and Eunan McGlinchey - on his debut in the class - sixth fastest.

A strong contingent of Irish riders in this class saw Caolan Irwin finish eighth, Sam Laffins 18th, Simon Reid 20th, Kia McGreevy in 21st, and Jordan McCord 29th.

North West 200-bound Richard Cooper headed the Superstock 1000cc class on his Buildbase Suzuki with Michael Rutter (Bathams BMW) 20th.

Andy Reid, back in the Tyco BMW fold, was 25th, Graeme Irwin, on his BSB debut, 29th and Magherafelt's Paul Jordan was 35th as he gets miles on the Dafabet Devitt Racing Kawasaki he will campaign on the international road race scene.

Cameron Dawson (14) from Dungannon, on his KMR Kawasaki, was 12th in Junior Supersport, one place ahead of 16-year-old Curtis Trimble on the Team 109 Kawasaki with his team-mate James McManus (15) 22nd.

Qualifying takes place today, as does the opening sprint race for Supersport machines scheduled for 5.10pm, the opening two Superstock 1000cc races from 2.45pm and the British Talent Cup race one at 2pm in which local boys Scott Swann, Rhys Irwin and debutant 14-year old Jamie Lyons from Omagh all compete.

- To mark the 90th anniversary celebrations of the fonaCAB International North West 200 in association with Nicholl Oils, the 2019 event will host a special paddock display during the race week festival of former North West 200 race-winning machinery.

Sponsored by Breda Tyre and Exhaust Centre, based on the Saintfield Road, Newtownbreda, the machinery will also take part in a special parade lap with many of the old bikes being ridden by former North West winners.

Amongst the older bikes, particular highlights will include Dick Creith's 1961 North West 200-winning Ryan Norton and Billy McCosh's 1960 Matchless G50 and AJS 7R.

The line-up of former stars of the event making appearances during race week is a who's who of North West 200 racing and will include Ian Duffus, Stephen Cull, Ian Simpson, Steve Plater and Phillip McCallen.

Sponsors Breda Tyre and Exhaust Centre is a long-established family business run by John and Keith Miller, specialising in tyres, exhausts, batteries, MOT preparation and a full range of garage services.

"The North West 200 is a great place to showcase our business and it is superb to be able to support this fantastic event", said John Miller.

"We have been working with the North West 200 as volunteers for a number of years now but to be on board as sponsors is very special because we are people who have a strong motorbike background.

"Back in the day, our father John was a road racer and I raced motocross, competing against World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea's father, Johnny."

North West 200 race chief Mervyn Whyte MBE said: "The Miller brothers are passionate about motorcycle racing and have a great interest in classic and vintage machinery.

"It is fantastic to have their support for our display and parade of previous NW 200 winners which will capture the imagination of everyone at this year's 90th birthday celebrations."

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