Superstar Guy and McGee are ready to roar at Cookstown 100
The Irish road racing season will roar into life with the 96th running of the KDM Hire Cookstown 100 on Friday, April 24 to Saturday, April 25.
Out of an entry list of close to 200, one rider sure to attract attention is TV star Guy Martin, who will ride his own 750cc BSA Rocket-3 in the Classic race - unlike last year, when he was onboard the ill-fated Honda Fireblade.
Leading the fully-subscribed entry is last year's Cookstown 100 man of the meeting Derek McGee, the Mullingar man racking up five second-place finishes in 2017.
The treble Supertwin, Supersport and Open Irish road race champion is sure to have his hands full with Cookstown Burrows Engineering rider Derek Sheils, who scored a double in the feature and Open races a year ago.
Adding spice to the meeting will be William Dunlop on the Temple Golf Club/Caffery Yamahas, Michael Sweeney (MJ Racing, locally-sponsored duo Adam McLean and James Cowton on Winston McAdoo's machinery - both were winners last year in Supersport and Supertwin races - and 2016 man of the meeting Paul Jordan from Magherafelt, who is sure to be pushing for podiums.
It will be interesting to see how last year's double Cookstown support race winner and double Irish support road race champion Joe Loughlin, from Castleblayney, fares in the step up to full national competition this year.
A few feathers could well be ruffled by the end of racing.
There are 41 newcomers entered for this year's event and Davey Todd, riding under the John Burrows Cookstown BE banner, is worth keeping an eye on.
He burst onto the local road race scene at Skerries last year and is leading the European Supermoto Championship having won a hat-trick of races at Three Sisters over Easter.
Making his Irish road race debut will be former New Zealand 600cc champion Daniel Mettam, the 21-year old who just recently finished third in the NZ Superbike series.
He will ride machines for well-known local sponsor Billy McKinstry in the Supertwin, Supersport and Open classes.
Darren Cooper, a 2017 Manx Grand Prix Supersport winner, makes his Irish debut riding NW Racing machines.
Dan Sayle, a multi-sidecar-winning passenger around the Isle of Man TT circuit and equally adept on a solo machine, will make his Cookstown debut riding in the Moto3 class.
There is quite an international flavour to the Cookstown entry with riders from as far afield as France, Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, New Zealand - and, for the first time ever at Cookstown, a Canadian, with Mel Gantly in the senior support line-up.
Female competitors are not to be forgotten with Maria Costello MBE returning to the event along with Melissa Kennedy, Sarah Boyes, Yvonne Montgomery and Veronika Hancokvy.
With this the first road race of the 2018 season, riders are eager to get a race between the hedges under their belt - hence the huge entry necessitating a 19-race programme with a £13,000 total prize fund.
The running costs for road racing continue to increase with around £100,000 required for the Cookstown event, with the club appealing to the public to buy a programme at £10.