PRESS STATEMENT 24-07-2017 by : Jack Corry
The 2017 Faugheen 50 sponsored by Merry’s Garage and Hillside Motors, produced another fantastic weekend of top class road racing, with lap records tumbling throughout the two days, and brilliant performances from Derek Sheils and the new kid on the block Joseph Loughlin.
The local contingent also gave a great account of themselves, with David “Howy” Howard, fresh from his win at the Southern 100, taking a win, and a number of podium placings, and that coupled with Micko Sweeney’ s fine performances, made for great viewing under brilliant sunshine at the Co. Tipperary course.
Like Walderstown, the fans turned out in their droves to see the gladiators of road racing prove that the shop window of motorcycle racing is alive and well. It was also great to see the iconic RC45 Honda of the great Joey Dunlop make a rare appearance, and it really made the weekend for both Derek Sheils and Derek McGee who were chosen by the Dunlop family to ride the classic bike. Gary Dunlop also took one of his dad’s 250 Honda’s to the course on Sunday to join Derek Sheils, much to the delight of the fans.
The Faugheen club decided to give all the classes’ free practice on Saturday morning, and then qualifying, which went down very well with the riders, and after both of these, the first of two races took place, on Saturday evening. The Classic 500 and 1000 classes were combined, and these races saw the first lap records tumble with English visitor Richard Ford taking the 1000 class win and a lap record of 87.468mph. The 500 class was a cracking race with Edward Manly and Barry Davidson renewing their Skerries rivalry, and they gave a display of close, tight racing, with Davidson leading going out on the last lap. As the pair approached Faugheen village, Manly took the lead, but as the pair made the sweep up to the line Davidson had the slightly better drive and took the win by just 0.089 of a second, with Manly smashing the lap record to raise it to 86.166mph.
For some reason Joe Loughlin decided to sit out the Non Championship Junior Support, and in a way it made for a better race, as Loughlin had been so fast in qualifying. Oisin Watson took the early lead, and looked like he was going to take a handy win, but up came another of the young newcomers, Michael Browne, and he was right on the rear wheel of Watson with two laps to go. On the final circuit the Cork rider broke the 10 year old record of Mark Young’s, and took the narrowest of wins on the line by just 0.348 of a second, from Watson, with Skerries rider David Howard third. Derek Costello took his best result since his return to racing a few weeks ago, finishing in fourth, with on form Darren O’Rourke fifth.
It’s a good job that there was 10am mass in Faugheen village church, as Clerk of the Course Sean Bissett, couldn’t start racing until 11 at the earliest, and he had the bikes on the road at 11.15, and he never let up, and all races were finished at 3.15.
The first race on Sunday saw the 250’s and the 400 combined, and such is the depletion of the two strokes, that there was only one finisher in that class, with Irish Champion Neil Kernohan finishing first on the road in the combined class. Early 400 leader Darryl Tweed just crossed the line at the end lap two, when the engine in his Honda blew in a big way, and this left Seamus Elliott in to take his first win of the season. It was great to see the Ballymoney rider back at Faugheen where he was seriously injured last year, and to see the look on his face after winning the race was really a sight to behold. Skerries winner Callum Laidlaw finished in second place, with David Howard once more in third. Duleek rider Mark Sheils was in 7th place.
Joseph Loughlin continued his winning streak in the Senior Support class, and the Castleblaney rider, who has been unbeaten all season in both the Junior and Senior Support class, took a 25 second win from David Howard, who just held off the challenge of Alan Johnston on the final lap. Loughlin again smashed the lap record, and was just under the magic 100mph lap at 99.873mph. As I don’t have the official Championship positions to hand, unofficially it looks impossible that Loughlin will be beaten in the Irish Championship, as he has amassed 125 points, with Howard in second on 63 points with only two rounds remaining.
The Open Superbike Championship saw the top three riders in the class once more lock horns, and after losing his unbeaten run at Walderstown, Derek Sheils was in no mood for a second defeat, and he took the win by over 6 seconds from Derek McGee, and it was Micko Sweeney who held off a brilliant challenge from Paul Jordan, taking the final podium place on the line by just 0.374 of a second. Andy Farrell finished in 7th place on his 600 Kawasaki.
Once more the Classic riders produced the goods in the Junior 250/350 class. Richard Ford completed his double taking the 250 class win, and in the process his second lap record of the weekend, breaking the oldest lap record to still stand since 2005, pushing the record to 80.517mph, from 76.145mph. Brian Mateer finished in second, with Philip Shaw in third.
The expected battle between Barry Davidson and Ed Manly didn’t even get one lap, as Barry Davidson’s normally reliable Honda, toured in at the end of the lap, but this didn’t stop Manly breaking the 2009 record of John Burrows, pushing it to 84.610mph. This win saw Manly now joint second in the all-time winners list at Faugheen on 8 wins with another Classic rider Robert McCrumb, who unfortunately crashed out in practice, breaking his collar bone, and was the only injured rider for the weekend. Sean Leonard moved into strong contention in the Irish Championship and has a 22 point lead with just two rounds remaining finishing second, with Ashbourne rider Herbie Ronan third.
The 600 Supersport class has produced cracking racing all season, and this was no different, well a little, with another new name added to the seasons tally. Paul Jordan scored his first win in the class, after a trilling race with only 0.743 of a second separating him and Derek Sheils at the flag. Micko Sweeney finished in a brilliant third place, and it was Tandragee and Skerries winner Derek McGee who finished in fourth place. This opens the championship as Adam McLean was missing from this week’s action, and McGee is on 83 points with Sheils on 76, and Jordan on 71, with two rounds remaining. Andy Farrell came home in 7th.
Just after the 600 race, the large gathering of fans were treated to the spectacle of the iconic RC45 Honda of the late Joey Dunlop once more on a closed public road course. Gary Dunlop brought down the bike that was made so famous by his dad Joey at the 1999 Ulster Grand Prix, and he also took out a 250 Honda that was also raced by his dad in the late 90’s. Derek Sheils was the lucky pilot, to ride the “Big Bike” and was delighted to be given the opportunity to ride it. Gary said “I am delighted to take the bike down to this great meeting and give Derek a run on it, and this will be the last time that you will see this bike out on the roads, as it will be now retired to its home in the pub”
Joseph Loughlin once more trounced the opposition in the Junior Support class with a 16 second win, and once more a new lap record for the class at 97.300mph, leaving Michael Browne and Oisin Watson to once more fight it out for the lower placing on the leader-board. Browne again shaded the runner up spot by just 0.505 of a second from Watson. Derek Costello was 7th, with Darren O’Rourke 8th.
Paul Robinson is a true 125 rider and has won many races in the class as well as the 250, but he, like a few of the other riders have moved to the Moto 3 bikes, and he gave the bike its first win, and a lap record to put the icing on the cake for the vastly experienced Ballymoney rider, beating Derek McGee by just 0.855 of a second, with Neil Kernohan in third. Sean Leonard had to retire after the warm up lap.
The Supertwin class once more provided a great spectacle, with just 0.654 of a second separating the top three at the chequered flag. The early battle was between McGee and Sheils, with Joe Loughlin slightly back in third. This didn’t faze the Castleblaney rider, and on the final lap he made a dash for the win, and he broke the lap record once more to beat McGee by just 0.429 of a second, with Sheils 0.225 of a second in third. His speed was 98.951mph. Micko Sweeney came home in fourth 2.913 seconds off the final podium place. Paul O’Rourke got the better of the lower local leader-board battle, taking 11th place. Derek Costello finished in 13th, with Darren O’Rourke in 18th.
David Howard has been in flying form this season, and after his win at the Southern 100 in the Isle of Man he was full of confidence in the non-championship Senior Support race, where he had a great battle with John O’Donovan and Alan Johnston. The trio slogged it out for the full race, and it was Howard by just 1.914 seconds from Johnston, with O’Donovan third. Howard also had the fastest lap of the race at 93.886mph.
The Grand Final produced a new outright course record for Derek Sheils who once more trounced the opposition by over 15 seconds, pushing the record to 106.464mph, over the tight and twisty 2.2 mile course. Derek McGee was in a secure second, but once more the fans were treated to a cracking battle between Micko Sweeney and Paul Jordan, with Sweeney just getting the verdict at the flag. Andy Farrell finished in 11thplace.
Derek McGee took the Man of the Meeting award by just two points from Derek Sheils by virtue of his extra race in the 125 class, with Sheils taking the fastest lap of the meeting, and also the fastest Southern rider. Forest Dunn was the furthest travelled, making the journey from Cornwall, with Richard Ford taking the fastest lap by a Classic rider.
Once more we had a cracking weekend, with sun, lap records, brilliant racings, no red flags, and iconic bikes to entertain us. This spectacle would be great if we could bottle it and bring it with us every race weekend. Well done to all in the Faugheen club for their efforts and to the riders for treating us to their amazing skills.
Florence “Florrie” Burns
Just as the dust steeled on a brilliant day at Faugheen, the sad news filtered through that one of road racings hard working ladies, Florence Burns had passed away after a tough battle with cancer.
Florrie was known the length and breadth of the road racing community, and was one of the strong crew of ladies who looked after the lap scoring and the flags at the start-finish of road races, along with her daughter Naomi, Margaret Patterson and Gail Corr. The tears flowed around the paddock when I announced the news over the PA, and it was only at the recent Walderstown that Florrie was given the honour of starting the Grand Final.
It was this time last year that she was diagnosed with the terrible scourge of cancer, and she fought it with great strength. Florrie was a member of the North Armagh club, and lived just off the Tandragee course. I have never seen her without a smile, and as a travelling partner to Margaret Patterson, she just loved her job at road races.
The racing community will miss her dearly, but none more than Naomi, Rebecca, Gary and Jason. May you rest in Peace Florrie.
Keep ‘er lit