As 2013 draws to a close it provides an opportunity to reflect on the year that has just passed; and what a year it has been for road racing! From Cookstown to Killalane, with the usual visits to Scarborough and Macau, and of course the Isle of Man, it was an action packed high-octane season for the likes of the Dunlop brothers, Guy Martin, and John McGuinness. It was a year that saw not only the established riders enjoy success, but a number of young guns made their mark by securing podium finishes and race wins. There was also the inaugural Classic TT to enjoy with everyone getting into the swing of things with a 60s theme. And of course, the weather played a key part during the year, with the North West 200 and Ulster Grand Prix both being particularly badly affected, but more on that later.
Here is part one of a review of a year in road racing.
The year kicked off with a visit to the Ian Watson Spring National Road Races in Scarborough. It boasted an entry list featuring Guy Martin, Ian Lougher, Jamie Hamilton, Dean Harrison and Michael Pearson.
Chris Palmer won both legs of the Ultra Lightweight/400 class, beating Ian Lougher and Seamus Elliott. Davy Morgan won the first leg of the 250 Lightweight class but it was red flagged after just four laps due to oil on the track. Derek Clark was classified as the winner of race 16, the 250 Lightweight class and there were just four classified riders. The Bell brothers were victorious in the Sidecar race with over eight seconds separating them from their nearest rivals.
Jamie Hamilton took his first victory of the year in the Supertwins, beating Dean Harrison and Daniel Frear. Elsewhere Guy Martin, who has enjoyed considerable success in Scarborough before, won the Junior 600 class, beating Harrison and Ivan Linton. Hamilton won the first leg of the Ian Watson Cup, the main race of the day, but was ultimately beat by Martin, Pearson, and Kiaran Hankin.
Next up was the Cookstown 100, where the likes of the Dunlop brothers joined the fray. Antony Ambler won the first race of the day – the Junior Support B – ahead of R J Woolsey and Oliver Dupuy. Connor Behan won Junior Support A ahead of Gavin Lupton and Alastair Haworth. Andy Lawson won Senior Support A ahead of James Kelly and Mark Hanna while Mark Goodings won Senior Support B. He finished ahead of Gary Graves and David Howard.
William Dunlop won the 250 class, ahead of Sam Wilson and Davy Morgan while his brother Michael Dunlop won the second Supertwins race, the first Superbike race, and the main race of the day. Seamus Elliott was victorious in Moto 450s while Haworth won Supersport 400s. Jamie Hamilton won the first Supertwins race. There were podiums for Martin, Harrison, Dave Hewson, Derek Sheils and Daley Mathison. Martin also won one of the Supersport races.
Following Scarborough and Cookstown Guy Martin led the Duke Road Racing Rankings with 255 points. Jamie Hamilton moved into second placed with 226 points and Dean Harrison dropped to third, after an early lead, with 205 points. Michael Dunlop debuted in fourth with 140 points, Michael Pearson ranked fifth (136), Chris Palmer sixth (106), Alastair Haworth seventh (104), Connor Behan eighth (100), Derek Clark ninth (90) and Seamus Elliott in tenth with 89 points.
Next up on the Irish roads was the Tandragee 100, where Michael Dunlop returned as one of the most successful riders there with nine wins (tied fifth in the all time list with Phillip McCallen). In the Moto 3 race Sam Wilson was the winner, comfortably beating Paul Robinson and Nigel Moore. The Supersport 400 winner was Gavin Lupton with Andy Farrell and Paul MaGuire also on the podium. Seamus Elliott was first of the three Moto 450s, Anthony McColgan was second and Dave Walsh third.
KMR Kawasaki’s Jamie Hamilton was once again victorious in the Supertwins, beating William Davison and Andy Farrell. Meanwhile William Dunlop dominated the 250ccs, beating Michael Sweeney by over 45 seconds. Wayne Kirwan stood on the top step of the podium in the Supersport race after beating Michael Pearson and Derek McGee. Michael Dunlop added to his Tandragee success after victory in the Superbikes, winning with a dominant 26.320 second deficit to Derek Sheils. Michael Pearson finished in third place.
Elsewhere Mark Hanna won the Junior Support race, James Kelly was the Senior Support winner, while Robert McCrum won the Classic race.
Next up was the first of three International road races and a trip to the North Coast for the North West 200. With a strong line-up of newcomers including Karl Harris, Josh Brookes, James Cowton and Ivan Lintin, the entry list for the North West 200 was impressive. Used by many as a warm-up for the Isle of Man TT, there was fierce competition for the race wins and podiums.
Practice on Tuesday was launched with a session for the newcomers, allowing them to become accustomed to the track. Practice on Tuesday for everyone else also served as qualifying, with another session on Thursday. Their combined times determined the grids for the races. The first three races of the meeting took place on a damp Thursday evening. John McGuiness started from pole position for the first race – Supersport – but it was Michael Dunlop who dominated the race to beat Guy Martin on the track. He finished a very comfortable 24 seconds clear of the Tyco Suzuki rider. Bruce Anstey was bumped off the podium by Alistair Seeley who started in the second group and won on corrected times.
The second race was the first outing for the Supertwins, which Jeremy McWilliams secured pole for. He took the victory, finishing just eight tenths of a second clear of James Hillier. McWilliams’ KMR team-mate Jamie Hamilton finished 1.5s behind him and in third place. It was McWilliams’ first win on the Triangle circuit and also maiden podiums for Hillier and Hamilton there. Lintin missed out on a podium spot by just over one and a half seconds. The third and final race on Thursday evening was the first Superstock race. This gave Seeley his second win of the meeting, and podium finishes for Anstey and Gary Johnson. The result meant that Anstey continued his impressive record of finishing on the podium at the North West 200 at least once every year since 2002.
After glorious sunshine on Friday, Saturday proved to be a washout. Heavy persistent rain delayed proceedings but did not deter John McGuinness and former NW200 race winner Steve Plater taking guests out on parade laps. After initial delays the second Supersport race got underway but was red-flagged after just two laps due to minor incidents which saw four riders come off their bikes, thankfully without serious injury. The race was to be restarted but, after a couple of hours of uncertainty, the race organisers took the decision to call off the whole meeting after the rain showed no signs of letting off. Despite only running two laps, Michael Dunlop was declared the winner of the abandoned race, with Anstey second and Lee Johnston third. This was the second time in three years that the races had been seriously disrupted.
Following the North West 200, Michael Dunlop took the lead in the Duke Road Racing Rankings with 430 points. Jamie Hamilton remained in second place with 385 points while Guy Martin dropped to third with 375 points. Michael Pearson was fourth (271), Dean Harrison fifth (229), Gavin Lupton sixth (217), and Alistair Seeley seventh (205). Derek Sheils (190), Davy Morgan (167) and Bruce Anstey (165) rounded out the top ten.
Coming up in part two: June including the Isle of Man TT!