Alastair Seeley made a winning debut in the Masters Superbike Championship at Bishopscourt on Sunday August 20th as he had his first races for the IFS Yamaha team, but it was Charles Stuart on a similar machine who was the biggest winner in the Superbike championship as he closed the gap to Richie Ryan for the fourth race in a row. The Supersport Championship also closed up as Ross Patterson took two wins over series leader Jason Lynn to reduce the gap to just ten points.
Seeley began the weekend as favourite for the Superbike wins, as he joined the championship for its penultimate event, and he lived up to expectations with pole position for race one, more than a second quicker than second placed Gerard Kinghan. Kinghan making a return to the series following a break of two events was marginally quicker than third placed Luke Johnston with Stuart next up. Points leader Richie Ryan was struggling with set-up and found himself down in eighth place on the grid.
Away from the lights Seeley was initially led by Stuart but by the end of lap one the expected lead was his and over the nine lap race he showed his class as he pulled away to win by eleven seconds. Behind him Kinghan was back on top form following a tough year, as he caught and passed Stuart to finish second, his best result of the season so far. Stuart’s third place was not what he would have wanted, having won the previous two championship rounds, but with Ryan languishing down in eight he was happy to take the points and keep his slim title hopes alive. Peter Moloney took fourth place to increase his chances of taking third in the championship, while Andrew Murphy on a borrowed Honda took the ‘Cup’ win to move back into the lead of that class.
Race two produced a similar result to race one, as Seeley took an early lead and then pulled away to win by an almost identical eleven second margin. Once again Kinghan battled past Stuart after a slow start and then held on for his second runner-up spot of the day. Stuart completed the podium for the second time, with Moloney once again fourth. Ryan improved to seventh place but Stuarts pair of podiums meant that the championship battle will go to the last event on September 30th & October 1st at Mondello Park. Andrew Murphy once again won the ‘Cup’ while Raymond O’Neill’s second place helped him top move into second in the championship standings.
The Supersport class produced its usual closely fought races with Jason Lynn, Ross Patterson and Aaron Clifford holding the top three spots in both championship encounters. Like in Superbike, the Supersport podium was identical in both races, but the result of each was in doubt right up until the flag. Race one saw Jason Lynn lead away from the lights with Patterson second. Clifford dropped back slightly at the start and had to work hard to close back in on the leaders but ran out of laps and had to settle for third and fastest lap of the race. At the front Lynn led until late on in the final tour when he got mugged by Patterson, who then held on through the final few corners to take an important victory and close the gap to Lynn at the head of the table. Mark Conlin was fourth ahead of ‘Cup’ winner Eunan McGlinchey.
Clifford lined up on pole for race two but a poor start saw him again in third place at the end of lap one. Patterson got away best to lead until Lynn slipped past on lap four. The top three circulated together for the remainder of the race with Lynn looking like he had done enough until Patterson once again got by on the final lap, at the same spot as in race one, and held on to win by less than a tenth of a second. Clifford repeated his fastest lap on his way to the final podium place, whilst his rival for third place in the championship, McGlinchey, took his second ‘Cup’ win of the day on the way to fifth place overall just behind Conlin. The Supersport Championship will now be a straight fight between Lynn and Patterson when the series returns to Mondello Park for the Championship finale.
The Principal Insurance Pre-Injection championship standings were left unchanged following Bishopscourt as Joe Grant and Darryl Sharkey each took a win and a second place to cancel each others results out and leave the gap at the top at eight points in favour of Sharkey. Grant won race one, helped in part by Sharkey getting caught out by the lights on the re-start, following a short stoppage due to an incident. The Championship leader later made amends by taking a dominant victory in race two.
The Masters makes its final trip of the season to Mondello Park on September 30th and October 1st when the championship will be decided on the International Track.