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.