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`Sunflower' races are drenched in Irish Superbike grand finale


Ian Lowry in action at Sunflower Trophy. Pic by Andrea Campbell Tim Reeves and Gregory Cluze in action at Sunflower Trophy. Pic by Andrea Campbell.

Ian Lowry in action at Sunflower Trophy. Pic by Andrea Campbell.

Tim Reeves and Gregory Cluze in action at Sunflower Trophy. Pic by Andrea Campbell.

THE final round of the Irish Superbike Championship was held on Saturday October 16 as part of the annual Sunflower Trophy Races.

The hosting Hillsborough and District MCC had attracted a host of visiting riders to compete alongside Championship regulars, including Lower Ballinderry's Davy Haire, who is a regular front runner in 2010. Unfortunately Haire's Sunflower challenge would be short lived, having crashed heavily during the opening day's practice on Thursday afternoon. The 21 year old took at heavy fall on the Bishopscourt track, sustaining a dislocated hip, which will see him in traction for the next six weeks at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast.

With Haire out, it was down to the reigning Sunflower Trophy holder, Ian Lowry from Moira to keep the Trophy in the Lisburn area. Lowry who has had a varied 2010 season finished of the year with a ride for the Paul Bird Motorsport Kawasaki team in World Superbike's before coming home to compete in his local race. Lowry was determined to retain the silverware, but unfortunately Relentless by TAS Suzuki's Michael Laverty was more determined to claim back the Trophy which he has won five times previously. The race had to be briefly stopped after only a handful of laps when English visitor Ben Wilson crashed heavily and caused a red flagged, the Boston man was treated at the side of the track before being taken to the Ulster Hospital for some precautionary x-rays, he was eventually sent home with bruising. On the restart it was Laverty who was determined to take the win, although Lowry did push him hard and showed him the way on occasions but at the end of the ten laps it was Laverty who took the spoils ahead of Lowry, with Marshall Neill taking third place ahead of Antrim's John Laverty, younger brother of Michael and Laverty's TAS team mate Alastair Seeley in fifth place.

Local team Mar-train Racing are calling a day on their sponsorship after a number of years backing local riders and the Sunflower Trophy was their final race meeting and for the occasion they invited Australian Billy McConnell along to ride alongside their two riders Gerard Kinghan and Kirk Jamison, in the Supersport races, although McConnell also qualified for the Sunflower race, eventually finishing in 15th place. Lisburn's Gareth Keys was also in action in the main race of the day but was an unfortunate non finisher, but was certainly glad his luck held out better in the two Irish Superbike Championship races on the day, helping him to secure second place overall in the Superbike Cup but also take the win ahead of Hillsborough's Gareth Evans in the Superstock Championship when Evans luck ran out and he registered two DNF's in both races which saw Laverty take a hat-trick of Superbike victories.

Laverty took the two Irish Superbike race wins along with the main race of the day to secure his dominance at the Sunflower Trophy. In the opening Superbike race sponsored by AJ Plumbing Supplies Laverty took the win ahead of Portadown's Marshall Neill with Lowry in third place, whilst Mar-train's Kinghan took eighth place, with Keys taking his opening Cup victory of the day in 15th in the overall race. Evans first disappointment of the day turned up with the Suzuki developed mechanical problems on the opening lap of the nine lap race. Race two sponsored by Lowe Refrigeration was no better for Evans, but with Laverty again in the winning mode, it was left to Lowry to take second place ahead of Seeley. Keys was again the Cup winner in ninth place overall with Kinghan 13th. Neill who was crowned the 2010 Superbike Champion crashed out along with John Laverty on the opening lap. Davy Haire was eventually third place in the Championship behind Brian McCormack.

In the two Supersport races sponsored by Schimmel Distribution and DB Tiles and Bathrooms, it was looking like the World Supersport bikes of Sam Lowes and James Ellison may be about to rule, but Neill was determined the Irish riders would retain the upper hand and was pushing the newly crowned British Supersport Champion Lowes hard. At the chequered flag it was Neill who took
the double victory in race one ahead of Lowes and Ben Wilson and in race two when Lowes was forced out with mechanical trouble it was Ellison in second place with another of the English visitor's James Westmoreland on board the locally owned TAS Suzuki in third place. Mar-train Racing's visitor McConnell secured eighth place in race one and was further up in fourth place in race two. Jamison was fifth and sixth respectively. Cody Nally was the Supersport Cup winner which saw Declan Hoey take 13th place in race one and register a DNF in race two, Drew Jamison was also a DNF and a DNS in race two.

Glenn Irwin had already secured the Championship ahead of Jamison but Hoey was able to secure his third place in the Cup behind his fellow ex Supermoto competitors Chris Thompson and Jordan Bonar.

Ryan Farquhar was the double victor in the Magic Bullet Fuels and Stoneyford Concrete backed Supertwins races. While Andy Reid was the double winner of the MBS Motorhomes and McManus Brothers Road Surfacing 125 races. Lisburn's Carl Phillips was 11th in race one but was a non finisher in race two, whilst Bruce Moulds took 13th in race one and seventh in race two. In a day were multiple victors were the order Mark Hanna took the double in the Nutt Travel and Grab-a-cab, Portadown's 250 races which were run concurrently with the 400 Supersport which saw Phillips and Joseph Loughlin share the win.

Moving to three wheels and it was English visitors, brother's Ben and Tom Birchall who were showing the way around in the two Wash `n' Dash and McKinstry Skip Hire / Friends of Marty Murphy sidecar races, both outings saw the Birchall's take the win ahead of Tim Reeves and Gregory Cluze, incidentally Reeves from Kent originally is now living in the Dundrod area. Third place in the first sidecar race went to Scott Lawrie and James Neave with John Clarke and local man Stuart Graham taking fourth place with well known pairing of Scobbie Killough and Paddy Marley taking 11th place. In race two Clarke and Graham took the third place with Killough and Marley in 13th.

Gareth shines with his best performance at Sunflower races

Gareth in action at the Sunflower Trophy races.BALLINDERRY racer Gareth Keys saved his best performance of the year for the Sunflower Trophy races last weekend.

19-year-old Gareth won the Ulster Superbike Cup Championship and took the Irish and Ulster Superstock title as well. He also broke the lap record for the Superstock class on four separate occasions, which was previously held by Superbike Champion Marshal Neill.

This was Gareth's first full season on the big 1000cc Suzuki in the ISB championships. Gareth finished 15th in the first Superbike race, he then had a great 9th place finish in the second race. Gareth set his lap record for the Superstock class in the main Sunflower Trophy race but he retired from that race after taking to the grass when his visor steamed up.

Ulster Star