Sheils fires warning to his rivals at Cookstown
Derek Sheils threw down the gauntlet to the rest of the competitors at the KDM Hire Cookstown 100 by setting the fastest time in qualifying ahead of the opening road race meeting of the 2019 Irish season.
Sheils, riding the new Burrows Engineering/RK Racing Suzuki, went around the 2.1-mile Orritor Circuit in one minute and 25.165 seconds on his penultimate lap to finish 0.134secs clear of Derek McGee, the defending triple Irish road race champion, on a night when the Royal Hotel Open race was postponed due to the gloomy, wet conditions. It will now be contested this morning.
The McAdoo Kawasaki team saw their rider Adam McLean complete the front row for the Open and Feature races after finishing 1.317secs behind Mullingar Missile McGee.
Paul Jordan (R6 Yamaha) is alongside Michael Sweeney on the second row, with Thomas Maxwell, Neil Kernohan and Welsh rider Paul Williams completing the first wave of riders.
McGee, on the ex-Gearlink Kawasaki, was fastest in the Supersport class in dry but windy conditions. He was four tenths ahead of McLean, with Jordan a further four tenths back in third.
Sweeney and Sheils will start side-by-side on row two with Co Cork rider Michael Browne an excellent fifth fastest, three tenths behind Sheils.
Newcomer Tom Weeden starts the Supersport races from 14th position.
On the Italy-based Faraldo M3 Honda, McGee stamped his authority on Moto3 qualifying and finished almost three seconds faster than second-placed Nigel Moore, with the 125GP Honda of Kevin Fitzpatrick completing the front row.
Sweeney put the MJR Kawasaki on pole position for the Supertwin race, a quarter of a second faster than last year's Man of the Meeting McLean, but conditions turned for the second group of Supertwins and in a wet session it was McGee who was fastest on the Jason McCaw-supported KMR Kawasaki some 12 seconds slower than Sweeney's time.
Kernohan, Stephen McKnight, Paul Gartland, Darryl Tweed and Williams all showed well in qualifying.
Barry Davidson topped three classes in qualifying - the 350 and 500cc Classic sessions and the newly-introduced Supersport 300 class - Brian Mateer was fastest in Classic 250, Eoin O'Siochru was quickest in Junior Support and Andy McAllister led the way in Senior Support.
Two races did take place at a cold and wet Orritor Circuit yesterday after the majority of qualifying earlier in the day had been completed on dry roads.
The Senior/Junior Support non-qualifiers race was restarted over four laps after an opening-lap crash with the rider uninjured. Just six riders participated.
Ben Plant held off James Cottrell by a quarter of a second to win the Senior class, with Stephen 'Cargo' Carr some 27secs back in third.
The four-lap Royal Hotel 'B' race saw the lead change hands three times before Ben Rea set the fastest lap on his third circuit to take the chequered flag three and three quarter seconds clear of second-lap leader Lloyd Collins, with first-lap leader Jonathan Gormley a similar distance back in third.
Today's race programme is scheduled to start just after the roads close at 10am with yesterday's postponed Royal Hotel Open.
That will be followed by the Senior Support, Moto3, Supersport, Junior Support, Junior Classic, Supertwin A&B, Senior Classic and KDM Hire Superbike races.