Motorcycle News (UK) - - Sport -

Armoy’s Race of Leg­ends run­ner-up Derek Sheils may have lost out to lo­cal favourite Michael Dun­lop at the Bal­ly­money ace’s home race but the Dubliner can lay claim to be­ing the only man to have beaten the TT’S out­right lap record holder in a su­per­bike class road race so far in 2016.

In tricky damp con­di­tions at July’s Walder­stown road races, the Dubliner and his Bur­rows Suzuki squad out­foxed the usu­ally wily Dun­lop with a bril­liant tyre switch from full wets to in­ter­me­di­ates just be­fore the fea­ture race. Although the 13 times TT win­ner raced off into an early lead, Sheils hunted him down to take a fa­mous vic­tory and the €3500 win­ner’s purse.

“It was good to get that win,” Sheils smiled after fin­ish­ing just be­hind Dun­lop at Armoy. “I thought the in­ter­me­di­ate would be the right tyre and the boys did a great job chang­ing it like a TT pit­stop be­tween the two warm up laps.”

It was a move worthy of a man with Sheils’ ex­pe­ri­ence. The 33-year-old started short cir­cuit rac­ing in 2002, and had his first be­tween-the-hedges out­ing in 2007.

“My first race was at Tan­dragee and I think I was third or fourth in the sup­port class,” he re­calls. “The bikes I had then weren’t great to be honest.”

Coming from south of the border in Ire­land, where bike rac­ing isn’t as pop­u­lar as it is in North­ern Ire­land, Sheils ad­mits he has al­ways strug­gled to find the funds for com­pet­i­tive ma­chin­ery.

“There’s more spon­sor­ship avail­able up north where bike rac­ing is like a na­tional sport, whereas my next door neigh­bour in Dublin doesn’t know I race,” ex­plains Sheils, who works as a gear­box re­con­di­tioner.

Road rac­ing also at­tracts more back­ing in Ire­land than track com­pe­ti­tion and once Sheils’ roads per­for­mances be­gan to match his short cir­cuit re­sults he was of­fered bet­ter bikes.

“Chris Dowd gave me a Kawasaki ZX-10R su­per­stock bike in 2013 that was a good bit bet­ter than the bikes I was rid­ing be­fore, and it was a pro­gres­sion of ma­chin­ery from then on,” he re­calls. “I won a cou­ple of su­per­bike races that year and that was the turn­ing point.”

He was the Ir­ish Su­per­bike cham­pion on the roads in 2013, a ti­tle he has al­ready se­cured again in 2016 and over the past few sea­sons the laid­back Dublin racer has picked up some mem­o­rable scalps to make him a reg­u­lar fron­trun­ner on the Ir­ish scene.

Backed now by ex-racer-turned team owner John Bur­rows on an ex-tyco Suzuki su­per­bike-spec GSX-R1000, Sheils made his third ap­pear­ance at the TT in June, tak­ing 13th place in the Se­nior race.

“My fastest lap was 126.99mph coming into the pits so we are call­ing it 127,” he smiles.

“I felt smooth and comfortable with no out-of-shape mo­ments the whole TT so I was happy enough.”

It is the lat­est de­vel­op­ment in a rac­ing ca­reer that is be­gin­ning to blos­som after a stut­ter­ing start.

“You sort of get com­pla­cent for a while and then some­thing puts a pep back in your step,” he says.

“It could be a new bike or a de­cent set up or what­ever and then you get the drive again. I’m still only 33 and I never look too far ahead but I would like a good crack at the TT to see where we can go with that so that’s the goal. I’m look­ing for­ward to the Ul­ster next week too. I lapped well last year and I think the big Suzuki will work well round there.”

“It’s been a strange sea­son,” he told MCN. “Last year I was strug­gling for pace, ev­ery week­end we were go­ing to each track, scratch­ing our heads and turn­ing the bike up­side down to try and find the speed to race at the front. This year, that hasn’t been the case and we’ve turned up at ev­ery track with a good base set­ting and speed to fight for podi­ums but things haven’t worked out on var­i­ous days when we should have been up there, but that’s the way it goes in bike rac­ing.”

Tak­ing home 45 points from Thrux­ton, Laverty vaulted from sev­enth to fourth in the stand­ings across the week­end and now has a 17-point lead on fifth-placed Dan Lin­foot, mak­ing him feel much more se­cure as the show­down cut-off point looms.

“Thrux­ton was im­por­tant for the cham­pi­onship as I’ve got a good buf­fer to the guy be­hind and if I’m be­ing honest, I can see the top six as it stands (Byrne, Haslam, O’halloran, Laverty, Lin­foot, El­li­son) be­ing the show­down ti­tle fighters as the Hon­das have been very strong and El­li­son has race-win­ning po­ten­tial. It’ll be a tough ask for the rest to get in and even for my team­mate, Chris­tian Id­don to get back in after drop­ping out at Thrux­ton.”

As he heads to Brands, Laverty has the added bonus of be­ing the last rider to win a race on the his­toric full-length con­fig­u­ra­tion at the end of last sea­son. With the se­ries vis­it­ing the GP cir­cuit twice and the sec­ond visit be­ing for the ul­ti­mate ti­tle de­cider in Oc­to­ber, Laverty will be work­ing his Tyco BMW

Michael Dun­lop was lit­er­ally fly­ing on his MD Rac­ing BMW S1000RR su­per­bike On his Cook­stown BE Honda, Sheils also took sec­ond place in Su­pers­port race

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