Classic Racer - - FIERCE -

The Ar­moy Road Races, with its en­vi­able moniker: ‘The Race of Le­gends’ was next on the cal­en­dar and Fri­day’s qual­i­fy­ing was a sight to be­hold with Ed Manly post­ing a new lap record on the G50 and set­ting the stage for a su­perb week­end’s rac­ing. How­ever, it was not to be as steady rain­fall on Satur­day morn­ing post­poned, and even­tu­ally can­celled, the event which was an aw­ful pity, es­pe­cially for the com­peti­tors and spec­ta­tors who trav­elled from over­seas. Thus, it was left to Killilane, now re­branded as The East Coast Races, to pro­vide the fi­nale for the 2018 sea­son and with all but one, the 350cc class, of the cham­pi­onships wide open it was any­body’s guess as to how things might pan out. This year is the sec­ond year for the East Coast Mo­tor­cy­cle Club to run th­ese races at Killilane and they sur­prised ev­ery­one by an­nounc­ing Mrs Brown’s Boys as the of­fi­cial spon­sors (Yes, you read that cor­rectly!) who came on board with a team of videog­ra­phers as well as guest ap­pear­ances by many of the cast from the hit TV show. Damp con­di­tions dic­tated that all prac­tices were un­timed and there­fore Sun­day’s grid po­si­tions were as per cham­pi­onship points. Race day was dry through­out and both Clas­sic races got un­der way mid-af­ter­noon. First was the Ju­nior Clas­sic where a mere 20 points sep­a­rated the top four in the 250cc class. When the flag went up Brian Ma­teer, with three wins from three starts, wasted no time to stretch the dis­tance be­tween him­self and near­est chal­lengers Richard Ford and Phillip Shaw even­tu­ally fin­ish­ing 55 sec­onds ahead of Ford to take a su­perb win as well as the 250cc Ir­ish Roads Cham­pi­onship for the sec­ond year in a row. Richard Ford and Phillip Shaw were run­ners-up in both the race as well as the Cham­pi­onship. First-time out on his new 250 Honda, Ga­van Duffy came home fourth with Gary Hut­ton fin­ish­ing right on his back wheel to gain a valu­able 13 points which al­lows him leapfrog up into fifth in the Cham­pi­onship just be­hind Alex Mcviker.

Barry David­son had the 350cc cham­pi­onship wrapped up with a 40-point ad­van­tage over near­est ri­val Ed Manly. But Manly’s sec­ond po­si­tion was by no means guar­an­teed with Sean Leonard and Ken Parkes hun­grily ey­ing the 15-point deficit, and be­sides, ev­ery rider wants to fin­ish the sea­son on a win. And so, when the flag shot up it was Manly and David­son who got away clean­est, the two vir­tu­ally stuck to­gether for the first few miles. Then, lit­tle by lit­tle, David­son inched ahead, bit by bit, lap af­ter lap even­tu­ally fin­ish­ing eight sec­onds ahead with a fastest lap of 88.011mph in the process. Manly took a com­fort­able 2nd and Ken Parkes 3rd which el­e­vated him to 3rd in the Cham­pi­onship. But it was the next four, Her­bie Ro­nan, Sean Leonard, Fred­die Ste­wart and Ian Thomp­son, all fin­ish­ing within a sec­ond of each other, that pro­vided the best ac­tion of the af­ter­noon with Ro­nan and Ste­wart jump­ing seven and five places re­spec­tively to fin­ish joint 5th in the 350cc Cham­pi­onship. The warm-up lap for the Se­nior Race gave all rid­ers a mo­ment of ex­treme drama when, clip­ping along to­wards Kear­ney’s Tree cor­ner, they met a car driv­ing to­wards them on the road. Thank­fully ev­ery­one man­aged to get past this ob­sta­cle with­out in­ci­dent, but one shud­ders to think what car­nage might have been if this had hap­pened min­utes later dur­ing the race. Shaken but not stirred, the field re­assem­bled at the hold­ing area while mar­shals se­cured the course and al­lowed for the warm-up to be re­run. In the 500cc Cham­pi­onship a tan­ta­lis­ing 15 points sep­a­rated leader Barry David­son from Nor­ton-mounted new­comer John Leigh Pem­ber­ton, the Kent vis­i­tor keen to mark his Ir­ish de­but with a Cham­pi­onship win. In ad­di­tion, Drap­er­stown rider Billy Lyle is also within Cham­pi­onship-strik­ing po­si­tion a fur­ther 10 points adrift, while a win for G50-mounted Ed Manly, way down the points board in 11th, would pro­vide win­ter-long brag­ging rights. In the Un­lim­ited class, Philip Shaw, rid­ing a Yamaha XS650, leads on points, but only three points sep­a­rate him and Trevor Ste­wart and Richard Ford. The race, re­duced to only four laps, got un­der way at 5.30pm and saw David­son es­tab­lish an early lead with Davy Car­leton and Fred­die Ste­wart hot on his heels as they rounded Kennedy’s Cor­ner. Mo­ments later, as if out of nowhere, Ed Manly, who started at the back of the grid, shot past the three of them as they ma­noeu­vred through the kink on the run to­wards Man O War. Richard Ford fol­lowed on the Bob Jack­son Nor­ton and caught and passed Manly to take the lead at St Movee Grave­yard and was look­ing so very good un­til, while clear­ing the jump just be­fore School­house, his chain jumped the sprocket and his race came to a pre­ma­ture end. Manly then re­took the lead, posted the fastest lap at 89mph and looked un­touch­able un­til the G50 drive belt snapped. This handed the win to David­son, who had his hands full to keep a very in-form Pem­ber­ton at bay. Well done Barry David­son on win­ning both the 350cc and 500cc Cham­pi­onships in one year and John Pem­ber­ton on the run­ner-up spot in your first at­tempt. Fred­die Ste­wart took 3rd ahead of the Hon­das of Billy Lyle and Davy Car­leton, Billy’s 4th place fin­ish be­ing enough to third place in the 500cc Cham­pi­onship. Phillip Shaw, more fa­mil­iar with win­ning 250cc Cham­pi­onships, se­cured his first Un­lim­ited Class crown with his win. Trevor Ste­wart took 2nd in both the race and the Cham­pi­onship, Dave Brough took the re­main­ing podium place. So that was the 2018 Ir­ish sea­son. It was a year of mixed emo­tions. On one hand we had su­perb rac­ing, but on the other we lost a lot of very dear friends along the way.

Ian Thomp­son and Fred­die Ste­wart chase Sean Leonard to Kear­ney’s Tree.

Paul Mcma­hon brakes for Kear­ney’s Tree, Killilane.

Brian Ma­teer is har­ried by Phillip Shaw, Ken Parkes, Fred­die Ste­wart and Ian Thomp­son as he brakes for Kear­ney’s Tree.

Richard Ford waits for the start up cue.

Kevin Cal­lan in pen­sive mood be­fore the Ju­nior Clas­sic race.

Win­ner of both the 350cc and 500cc Ir­ish Cham­pi­onships, Barry David­son ac­knowl­edges the crowds.

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