Surely in 2012, in Northern Ireland, at Glenoe, we couldn’t have been in for the third consecutive adult grasstrack promoted by the Carrickfergus Club held with dry track conditions?
Well, despite the dry roads and the sun making a rare appearance on route to the venue, the answer was no, the track had to be soaking along with the paddock entrance route which probably proved more challenging than the circuit itself! But as they say, the show must go on and after a delayed start to practice everyone was into the paddock and ready to tackle the challenging course conditions under the evening sun.
The Suitor Bros/Watt KTM team have a strong showing across all the classes but the spotlight was focused on their number one rider Richard Bird at Round 3. Bird went into the final round leading the Expert Class by forty points making him strong favourite to clinch the crown for the second year running. With this in mind Richard made no mistake around the re-designed McCormick’s Farm circuit, easing his way to three wins from three starts to round off a near perfect season, having dropped just three points in total.
Niall McAuley that lives just down the road in Larne posted steady results at the final round even with a few off track excursions to improve on his championship sixth in 2011, taking second in the Expert class ahead of another man from East Antrim, William Logan. Phil Harris, William Saunderson and Glenn McCormick completed the top six positions in the premier class.
Champion Bird quickly moved to express his gratitude to the Carrickfergus Club for their work promoting the events after the flag, “It’s great to win my second Watt Motorcycles Expert Grasstrack Championship back to back. The grasstracks are great fun and you can see that a lot of effort is put in by the club throughout the series, so I would like to thank them for that”. There is also good early news for the 2013 championship with Bird already expressing an interest to defend his crown next season; “I plan to be back to defend my title in 2013 and I would hope that more of the top riders come to challenge me next year.”
Ballyclare’s Paul Atkinson has been on form this year in the Clubman MX1 class, leading the way in not only the Grasstrack Championship but also the Ulster Motocross Championship as he travelled to Glenoe on Wednesday. Atkinson rode a perfect round to gain his first grasstrack title finishing on 215 points. Alan Saunders failed to mount a late challenge against Atkinson but stayed in that second podium position while Iain Dobie took third. Keith Conway clearly enjoyed the wet conditions posting his personal best results of the series to leapfrog Ricky Suitor and move into fourth. Simon Beggs made use of his enduro background in the Gleno mud to take sixth.
11 points separated Ian Dunlop and Don Murray going into the final Clubman MX2 races of the grasstrack season but this was stretched to 33 points at the conclusion when Dunlop grabbed his 3rd and 4th wins of the series. Don Murray had mixed fortunes though held onto second while Craig Sloan left it to the last minute to make a big jump from 7th to 3rd in the standings. The 155 machine of Chris Kennedy was left to rue his DNF in race two as Derek White, Andrew Lyness and Wayne Oliver pushed him out to take 4th, 5th and 6th respectively.
Stephen McBride continued his form from round two, battling to the top step twice on the night cementing his first Veteran Championship title. Michael Gibson posted finishes of 3-3-4 to put his total up to 165 points which was enough for second place. Richard Watt cautiously made his return to racing after a few weeks out with a knee injury by going 4-2-1, leaving it to the final race to progress above Colin Burns to climb onto the final step of the Veterans podium. The absent Michael McBride slipped to 5th after the final round while Jim Rodgers fired his KTM into sixth as time was called.
In the quad class, David Wray made his first appearance at a Carrick Club Grasstrack in 2012 where he won all three races but that didn’t make an impact as far as the championship leader Richard Toye was concerned. Toye rode a sensible race with results of 3-3-5 on the night bringing home his third Quad Grasstrack Championship. Stephen Toye made a better effort on the quad getting round the Glenoe circuit than he did getting into the race paddock in his van to bring home second place in the 2012 series while Gareth Graham took the bronze medal. Colin Forsythe, Steven Smith and Gary McNeill will all be getting a piece of silverware for the mantelpiece as they rounded off the top six in that order.
In the end the damp conditions didn’t stop play but infact provided some excellent racing in all classes watched by a good crowd of spectators. Once the racing was over Clerk of Course Gavin Lawther reflected on another successful grasstrack series promoted by the Carrickfergus Club; “I am delighted with how the grasstrack series has gone, we still have managed to maintain the number of entries for the events which is great to see. I would like to publically thank firstly the competitors for turning out in their numbers to support the events, Roy Neill the race commentator, the landowners, the first aid teams, the officials and finally, Norman Watt Motorcycles for their continued sponsorship of the series. We will now look towards are two day motocross extravaganza in August at Desertmartin where hopefully we will see all the same people plus a lot more there supporting it. Personally I think it’s going to be the biggest event yet for us, a good celebration of our five year anniversary as a reformed club.”
That’s the last of the grasstracks in 2012 for the Carrickfergus Club but next up is their Two Day Motocross at Desertmartin on 24th/25th August so for more information on this upcoming event you can visit the Carrickfergus Club website at www.carrickfergusmcc.co.uk, or alternatively you can find them at facebook.com/carrickfergusmcc or on Twitter, @carrickmcc
Words by – Ryan Denney
Images: Colin Mcilhagger