Driver Lusk in the thriller of the last lap at Mondello
DEREK Sheils and Richie Ryan kicked off their 2022 Dunlop Masters Superbike Championship campaigns with winning starts at Mondello Park by sharing the top two spots in the first three rounds of the series.
In front of a full house, the Superbike stars traded victories and fastest laps during a weekend where several records were broken.
It was also a great weekend for former Grasstrack champion Jack Whearty who took three victories in the Junior Supersport 300 class, his first since starting in the class last year.
Sheils took pole for the first race on his brand new BMW Roadhouse Macau, ahead of British visitor John Ingram in his BMW and four-time defending champion Richie Ryan in his Mobil-1 Yamaha.
Shiels brilliantly escaped in race one and had built up a sizable lead by the end of lap two when the race was stopped due to an accident for Ingram which unfortunately sidelined him for the rest of the weekend.
On the restart, Sheils led again, with pressure coming from behind from Ryan, while Lusk rider Thomas O’Grady on his EICL Yamaha and unrelated Emmett O’Grady on his TAG VTL Honda fought for third. square.
As Sheils headed for the season-opening victory over Ryan, the O’Gradys traded places until the flag. On the final lap, Thomas attempted to round Emmett at Southside Corner, but lost the podium by two thousandths of a second.
Sheils got off to a slow start in race two which left him third in the opening laps behind surprise weekend performer Alan Kenny. The Cavan man, on his Yamaha R1, had finished seventh in race one but took a huge leap forward in race two to finish second early on.
At the end of lap two, Sheils passed Kenny and started closing in on Ryan, setting the fastest race lap along the way. In the end he ran out of laps when Ryan opened his 2022 account. Kenny held onto third place ahead of Thomas and Emmett O’Grady.
Race three was easier for Sheils who broke away ahead of Ryan and Thomas O’Grady, with Kenny close behind.
On lap two Kenny took third place and held on to cap off a great weekend taking his second podium behind Sheils and Ryan.
The Superbike Cup class was the fastest ever, with Jamie Collins setting a new class lap record. The Cork man Collins with his Suzuki and Andrew Whearty’s BMW traded the lap record all weekend as they battled for the Cup lead, with the verdict ultimately falling to Collins. Collins took two wins over Whearty’s, while Ulster driver Stephen Magill took all three third places on his return to the series.
In Supersport 600, Caolán Irwin from Donegal and Oisin Maher from Tipperary took the top two places just ahead of former MotoGP and BSB rider Chris Burns.
Maher led the first lap before Irwin passed, but he couldn’t get rid of his young rival as they finished less than a second apart.
Burns came third, but that would be the best his weekend would get as a crash in race two sidelined him for the weekend.
The first Cup race of the year went to Tralee’s Jack O’Grady, Burns team-mate AJ Carey and fellow Ulster driver Gary Scott.
In race two, Irwin took the lead, but Maher got his way on lap four before a small error caused him to crash and miss race three of the weekend.
Irwin took the win again, ahead of the Supersport Cup top two Carey and O’Grady.
Race three saw Irwin score an unexpected hat-trick from Supersport debutant Shane Connolly and inaugural Cup winner Dean Lacey. Scott took second place in the Cup from Carey to leave the top four in the Carey Cup championship, O’Grady, Lacey and Scott, separated by just 12 points.
In the Principal Insurance Twins race Brian McCormack of Waterford took the first Irish victory for the new Aprilia RS660. McCormack’s Tramore neighbour, teenager Reece Coyne, took second place on his twins debut, but pulled out of the event in race two.
Thomas O’Grady made three Aprilias on the podium in race one and then followed McCormack home in the next two races to cap off a busy weekend for the Lusk rider in Aprilia NW Racing, while McCormack also added a new Supertwin lap record to his achievements.
William Roberts and Mark Quilligan each filled third place on the podium once.
The Production class saw Brandon Kavanagh claim the first victory, before Nathan McGauran took over to claim the next two, with Robert O’Connell and Gareth Morrell on the podium.
Rush driver Jimmy Bermingham had a DNF in race one, while in races two and three he finished eighth in the Production class.
An increased grid for the DM Groundworks and FJS Plant Junior Championships provided Jack Whearty with his first victories in the category.
Whearty took all three wins ahead of Nicky Burns, Callum Clint taking two third places and Tom Pierce one.
The concurrent Moto1 races all followed the path of Reuben Sherman-Boyd, who also won a lap record. Sherman-Boyd was trailed at home by Bailey Dobson and Robert O’Neill in all three races.
The Future Stars Championship, which is new for this year, got off to a very competitive start with a number of riders earning big points.
Nathan McGauran leads the way after two wins and a third, followed by Supersport riders AJ Carey and Gary Scott, with Moto 400 rider Jeff Quilter just behind in fourth.
The Future Stars are competing for an end-of-season prize provided by junior class sponsors DM Groundworks and FJS, as well as Sorcon Plant and additional funding from the Irish Motorcycle Supporters Club.
Keep it lit!