Irish Scene: The final three rounds.
The Irish road racing championship enjoyed its final three thrilling rounds, the first being the Faugheen 50 which is just outside Carrick-on-suir in County Waterford. This is a particularly beautiful part of the country with a panorama of rolling hills and rich, green forestry as far as the eye can see and is almost in stark contrast to the ferocious, high- speed racing that has been synonymous with Faugheen for the best part of 60 years. Many spectators were still talking of the epic battle between Richard Ford and Robert Mccrum which took place the previous weekend at Walderstown but, if they were hoping for a rerun at Faugheen their expectations were prematurely dashed when Mccrum slid off in free practice, breaking his
collarbone in the process and leaving Richard Ford in the right place to take an easy win, lapping at over 87mph, with Trevor Rufus a distant second. The 500cc race however, provided the crowds with the opportunity to once again see Seeley G50 mounted Ed Manly mix it with championship leader Barry Davidson who was riding Gary Hutton’s Honda CB500. When the flag went up, the two riders ignited and fought wheel to wheel for the entire race with Davidson just about managing to cross the line less than a tenth of a second ahead of Manly. Monaghan rider Freddie Stewart took third with Billy Lyle almost touching his back wheel. In the 350cc, all eyes were once again on Manly and Davidson and it had all the hallmarks of a rerun of the 500cc race until lap two when Davidson’s ignition let him down, leaving Manly to disappear into the distance taking the flag a full 35 seconds ahead of Sean Leonard with Herbie Ronan taking third. Richard Ford was back out in the 250cc race and wasted no time in stamping his authority on proceedings, recording a fine win ahead of the hard-chasing Brian Mateer with reigning champion Phillip Shaw taking third. Armoy, less than a week later, took us from the very south of Ireland right up to the very tip of the north. Billed as ‘The Race of Champions’, it certainly lived up to its illustrious name with last year’s winner, 350 Demster Honda mounted Barry Davidson taking pole on Friday evening, just ahead of close rival Ed Manly on a G50. Third spot on the grid was Manx Norton mounted newcomer Wattie Brown who respectfully sported the race number 10, last used here by his friend and compatriot the late Denis Gallagher. With 28 machines on the grid, the stage was set for a thriller. First away, Davidson, managed a small lead briefly but was soon passed by Manly and shortly after that by Brown, the trio keeping in close contact as they put distance between themselves and
ARMOY CERTAINLY LIVED UP TO ITS ILLUSTRIOUS NAME AS THE RACE OF CHAMPIONS.
the rest of the pack. Then on lap four the red flags came out when Bill Smith’s Ducati slid off at Church Bends, resulting in the race being rerun over four laps. This time Manly wasted no time in getting his head down and showing the rest of the field a clean pair of heels as he scorched across the line a full 14 seconds ahead of Wattie Brown, with Davidson a further five seconds back. In terms of classes, third place in the 500cc went to Freddie Stewart behind Brown and Manly. Davidson’s third place secured him the 350cc with Sean Leonard, Ian Thompson, Brian Allen and Linton Irwin all in close contention. The 250cc class was a hardfought battle with victory going to Richard Ford, closely followed by Brian Mateer and Phillip Shaw. The final round of the Irish season took place at Killilane in north Co Dublin in what has been renamed as the East Coast Races. Saturday’s practices were run in atrocious conditions and as such were untimed with grid positions ‘as per championship standings’. If the monsoonal rains weren’t bad enough, Brian Mateer broke a ring in practice, doing a lot of damage inside his little 250 Suzuki, and spent most of Saturday night honing it out and fitting an old piston with a second-hand ring and hoping for the best in Sunday’s race. The poor machine had practically no compression on the right-hand cylinder but, thankfully kept going at a slow, steady pace. Then on lap three Philip Shaw had to retire with a broken ring of his own, handing second place to Mateer a full 44 seconds adrift of a very in-form Richard Ford who was first in the 250cc and who was second overall against the might of so many 350cc Hondas. Richard also managed to set the fastest lap of the race at 83.791mph, Honda mounted Gary Hutton took third spot ahead of Alex Mcvicker. Barry Davidson’s superb win at Killilane was not enough to secure him his fifth 350cc championship in a row. This year the crown goes to local rider Sean Leonard who crossed the line just ahead of a hard-charging trio of K4 Hondas in the form of Freddie Stewart, Herbie Ronan and Sam Kinkead. Wexford rider Gearoid Hoare was mixing it with these four riders until lap four when he missed a gear while braking for Kearney’s Tree (yes, a fully grown tree in the middle of the road, where else would you find something like that?) and had to abandon his line and go
around the tree the long way, clipping a marshal in the process and rejoining the race in eleventh and eventually finishing in ninth. As a result of rapidly deteriorating conditions, the senior classic race had to be cancelled which gives Barry Davidson the 500cc championship, with Freddie Stewart and Ed Manly runners-up. Robert Mccrum won the 1000cc class from Richard Ford and Trevor Rufus. This year the 250cc title, which had rested with Phillip Shaw for the past seven years, goes to Richard Ford with Brian Mateer second and Philip Shaw third, and the 350cc title was won by Sean Leonard from Barry Davidson and Ian Thompson. No doubt we will have loads to look forward to in 2018, in the meantime a big thank you to the organisers, marshals, sponsors and supporters, without whose help all this would be very difficult.
250cc Suzuki mounted Richard Ford set the fastest lap of the race on his way to second place at Killilane. Brian Mateer passes Kearney’s Tree on the Killilane circuit.
Brian Mateer had to endure monsoonlike conditions in practice for Killilane. Barry Davidson took a superb win at Killilane.
Second place at Killilane wasenough to securesean Leonardthe 350cc championship for2017.
Freddie Stewart leads Sean Leonard and Herbie Ronan through Killilane Village.
Ed Manly took theflag 35 seconds ahead of the rest at Faugheen. Johnnydoran holds anarrowleadahead of Herbie Ronan at Faugheen.
Trevor Stewart, Robert Wright and Paul Mcmahon at Faugheen.
Above: Richard Ford leads Sean Leonard, Brian Mateer, Johnny Doran and Herbie Ronan at Faugheen 50.
Below: Gearoid Hoare tries to get past Ian Thompson.
Below inset: Phillip Shaw whips his Suzuki past Kevin Callan at Faugheen.