A UGP to live long in the memory.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

ONCE more the MCE Insurance Ulster Grand Prix provided a spectacle of top quality road racing over the 7.4 mile Dundrod course last Saturday, writes Baylon McCaughey.

However, the events from practice saw a former Manx Grand Prix Supertwin winner, Jamie Hodson, lose his life following a crash during a day that was littered with red flags.

The Dundrod Challenge saw the red flag come out once more after there were two separate incidents, one that had minor injuries, and the other involving Gavin Lupton, who was transferred to hospital, where he remains in a critical condition.

Race day started with a fitting tribute to long serving travelling Doctor Fred McSorley.

Doctor Fred as he is known, has been a travelling doctor at Irish road races for 30 years, and he has decided to hang up his leathers.

He was honoured by the club and the riders who took part in a lap of honour following Fred who had his wife as pillion passenger, and his son, who is now on the travelling doctor team. The fans rose to applause Fred, who has saved so many riders in long service to the sport.

With heavy rain and fog in the morning, Clerk of the Course Noel Johnston held back racing for almost two hours.

This proved to be the correct call as we were blessed with one of the best Ulster Grands Prix in years.

Peter Hickman won the opening superstock race from Harrison, Kneen and David Johnston.

Derek Sheils on the Burrows Enginnering Suzuki was dissappointed when he had to pull off the line after the warm up lap, due to problems.

The 600 race was unreal, as always this class never fails to dissappoint.

From the start, there were a train of six riders, nose to tail.

The massive crowd were on their toes as the riders treated them to road racing at its best, and at the flag it was Hickman by just 0.188 of a second from Anstey, with Lee Johnston just 0.759 of a second behind in third.

Dean Harrison took fourth with William Dunlop just beating his younger brother Michael for fifth.

Davy Morgan took his second UGP win when he won the 250 race on Saturday and was third on Thursday behind Anstey and Kernohan. Morgan was a popular winner, Callum Laidlaw was best 400 runner in third behind Paul Owen.

It was great to see Yvonne Montgomery back after her serious injury at Skerries, and she finished in 16th place overall.

Paul Robinson made it a brilliant double in the Moto 3/125 class, when he again just edged out Christian Elkin by just 0.216 of a second in a pulsating race that saw the pair locked together for the full five laps.

The opening superbike race will go down in history as one of the best.

It was Hickman from a rejuvenated Conor Cummins who was just ahead of his Manx friend Dan Kneen, but as the race went on, it was the 48-year-old veteran Bruce Anstey who was on a charge.

After a slow start on the exotic RCV Honda, he was second behind Hickman, with Cummins third, but on lap four he made his move and broke the lap record into the bargain.

At the flag, Anstey had deprived Hickman his hat trick, taking the win by just 0.272 of a second. Dean Harrison, with the new course record and the tag of the fastest road racer in the world, was just 0.668 of a second behind in third.

The new course record is now 134.614mph. Derek Sheils rode another excellent race finishing in 6th place lapping at 132.041 his fastest ever over the course.

The second Supersport 600 was another brilliant shop window for road racing, and this time Peter Hickman was going for his third win of the day, and 4th of the meeting. As in race one he was pushed all the way, with TT lap record holder Michael Dunlop.

Along with Lee Johnston and Anstey, this quartet locked horns going out on the last lap.

At the line it was Hickman by 0.314 of a second, from Anstey, who set the fastest lap of the race at 127.941mph.

Johnston was third, 0.566 of a second behind, with Dunlop one second back in 4th.

In comparison with recent years, the Supertwin race was rather tame. Nevertheless, up front it was Dan Cooper and Ivan Linton who broke away from a quartet of riders that included Adam McLean, Derek Sheils, Christian Elkin and James Cowton.

The leaders swapped places throughout the race, and the lap record was broken three times during the race. At the flag it was Linton by the slimmest of margins, 0.024 of a second, and the lap record, pushing it from 118.735mph, to 120.402.

Sheils was denied his second podium in the class in successive years, by Adam McLean who pipped the Dubliner by just 0.830 of a second.

The final race of the day was the second Superbike, and again it was classic. Could Hickman take win number 5

He led at the end of lap one from Kneen, Harrison and Cummins, with Sheils on the BE Suzuki ahead of the TT winning Bennets Suzuki of Michael Dunlop, but Hickman's race ended at Leathemstown when his bike blew up! On the last lap, it was between Kneen and Harrison.

The pair actually touched at over 180mph as they swept towards the hairpin for the final time, and Harrison dived under Kneen forcing the pair wide, but through the final Quarry's section of the course they were still locked together, and at the flag it was Harrison who denied Kneen his second ever win at Dundrod by just 0.106 of a second.

Michael Dunlop was once more fourth, just ahead of Derek Sheils. Thomas McAdoo, taking part in his only road race of the year, took an excellent 23rd on board the Motomerchants Kawasaki.

Hickman took the man of the Meeting Award, with Joey Thompson taking the Best Newcomer.

No matter how much we all enjoyed a breath taking display from all the riders, the tragedy on Thursday night brought home to all race fans and riders, just how simple racing can turn to tragedy.

Our sympathies go out to the Hodson family, and hopefully the injured riders make a speedy recovery. Latest is that both riders are stable and improving slightly.



This Sunday, racing continues at Bishopscourt with the Mondello Masters series.

Racing at the series has been nothing short of dramatic, close and hard fought!.

Practicse starts at 9.30 am, with racing from 12 noon.

As we go to press, there is a chance that Alaistair Seeley could well be on the grid, on board the IFS Yamaha. This will no doubt add to the already top class entry.


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