Laverty up against a top quality field at Sunflower
A top-class entry list will battle for success at the 41st running of the Sunflower Trophy race meeting at Bishopscourt today and tomorrow, the event also incorporating the final round of the AJ Plumbing Ulster Superbike Championship.
Heading the stellar line-up is Michael Laverty, the sole entry from the Tyco BMW team and six-time winner of the prestigious race, Buildbase Suzuki rider and circuit debutant Richard Cooper, the winner of the final British Superbike race at Brands Hatch on Sunday, and Danny Buchan (FS-3 Kawasaki), who is chasing his third success in the Sunflower.
Carl Phillips, a podium finisher in the Sunflower a year ago, has been thrown a lifeline by local team J McCaw Roofing to ride their Kawasaki alongside team regulars Ryan Gibson and Barry Graham.
Scottish visitor Paul McClung, a Supertwin double winner here two years ago, returns to contest the Superbike races on his Superstock BMW, while new Ulster Superbike champion Gerard Kinghan, runner-up Alistair Kirk, David Haire, Gibson and Aaron Armstrong will all look to throw a spanner in the works of the BSB regulars.
The current Superbike lap record belongs to Tyco BMW rider Christian Iddon (a non-starter due to injury), set in 2016. The mark of 1m 05.223secs - a speed of 100.676mph - could well be broken given fair conditions this weekend.
The Supertwin races have attracted a high-quality field with Glenn Irwin (John Burrows ER6 Kawasaki) - who finished third in the British Superbike Championship - clashing with ex-Grand Prix winner Jeremy McWilliams (Ryan Farquhar KMR ER6 Kawasaki), who never seems to lose his enthusiasm for racing.
They are joined in an intriguing battle by new British Junior Supersport champion Eunan McGlinchey, who is getting an outing on the McAdoo ER6 Kawasaki, Dundrod rider Robert Kennedy (Cloverdale/ILR 650cc Paton), Canadian Darren James (KMR Kawasaki), McClung, who is looking to repeat his 2016 success, and top locals Gary McCoy, who is Ulster champion, Denver Robb and Cahal Graham.
Irwin has pledged to donate any prize money he receives from the Supertwin races to William Dunlop's partner Janine Brolly and her daughters Ella and newborn Willa Wren.
William tragically lost his life in an accident during practice for the Skerries 100 back in July.
Irwin said: "It's a small gesture, but hopefully I can raise as much money as possible for William's family."
The action kicks off at Bishopscourt this morning from 9.15am with practice and qualifying followed by five races this afternoon for Pre-Injection, Superbike Pro, in which all the leading riders are scheduled to compete, Superbike, Supersport Cup, Young Guns Challenge, Junior Cup, and Moto3/250GP.
There is a full 14-race programme scheduled for tomorrow from 10.30am with the feature 12-lap Sunflower Trophy race the first race after the lunch break.