Tragic Malachi Mitchell-Thomas will be with us in spirit as we aim for Macau joy: Burrows
Cookstown B.E Racing team owner John Burrows is currently preparing to take his team to the Far East for the 50th running of the Macau Grand Prix later this month, where Dubliner Derek Sheils will make his debut.
But the Dungannon businessman insisted that his young protégé Malachi Mitchell-Thomas, who sadly lost his life at this year's Vauxhall International North West 200, would be with them in spirit.
"We are delighted to be taking big Derek to Macau where he will make his debut on our Cookstown B.E Racing GSX-R1000 Superbike," said Burrows.
"There's no hiding the fact that Mal would also have been on this trip with us. I'd have run both riders but it wasn't meant to be, although he will never be far from our thoughts."
The 20-year-old became like a younger brother to Burrows, who continued: "There's not a day goes by that I don't think about him.
"There's always something that triggers it off, whether it be in the house or in the workshop, and the boys were just saying the other day that he would have loved to have gone to Macau.
"The lad was very much part of our lives, albeit for a very short time, but he made a major impact, that's for sure. I can't begin to imagine what his father Kevin is going through. He's holding up well."
Delighted that the Northern Ireland racing fraternity haven't forgotten Malachi or Kevin, Burrows said: "(Kevin) has been invited over here in the next couple of weeks for the launch of the Mid Antrim 150 Road Races DVD. That's a terrific gesture from the Mid Antrim Club, who nominated Mal as their Man of the Meeting after his fantastic debut there earlier this year."
Looking ahead to Macau, Burrows explained: "Derek is a fast and level headed rider. He's won Irish Championships on both the short circuits and roads, so he's well capable of finishing in the top half of the field."
The big Dubliner, who shies away from publicity, won two Irish and Ulster Road racing titles in 2016 and, if he's done his homework on the Armco Guia Circuit, he is well capable of a strong top-10 finish.
"He knows what he has to do," said his team boss. "There are not a lot of sessions to get to learn the place, so it's important to tag onto some of the faster guys and as Derek says, he knows his rights from his lefts - so he should be okay!"
Before heading to Macau, Burrows is also delighted to announce that they will continue with Sheils for the 2017 season, and Cookstown Meats have also renewed their title sponsorship package with B.E Racing.
"Derek fits in well with our team and I'm delighted to have him back onboard for 2017," said Burrows who, despite being a leading contender on the Irish National scene himself back in the day, never got the chance to ride Macau during his career.
"I did try on several occasions and nearly did a deal with Philip Neill at TAS Racing one year, but for whatever reason it didn't work out.
"Mike Trimby was running it then and I was never invited. Maybe he thought my CV wasn't good enough.
"It's just one of those things, but I would certainly have loved a run round the place. It is so unique."
Looking ahead to 2017, he also said: "We know Derek and he knows the team, so everyone is ready to go.
"He will have Superbike, Supersport 600, Superstock and Supertwin machinery at his disposal for the Isle of Man TT, Ulster GP and the Irish Championship meetings.
"It has yet to be decided if we will compete at the North West 200.
"We may field a second rider at certain events if the opportunity arises, but for now it's just the aforementioned races and big Derek Sheils in the saddle for us."
Sheils won Irish and Ulster Superbike titles in 2016, as well as the Irish Supertwins crown, and claimed his first international rostrum when he finished second in the Ulster Grand Prix Supertwins race.
The Dubliner also joined the 130mph club in August's Ulster Grand Prix at Dundrod after several stellar races.