The opening rounds of the new Dunlop Masters Superbike Championship saw reigning champion Richie Ryan take up where he left off last year, as he secured a hat-trick of wins at Mondello Park on Saturday April 6th and Sunday April 7th.
The Supersport races also produced a triple winner as British Superstock 600 competitor and 2018 Masters Young Racer of the Year Caolán Irwin, romped to three dominant victories.
The first race of the season took place on Saturday with a reduced race distance following a long delay caused by a serious incident in Sidecar qualifying. When racing did get underway Ryan’s Mobil1 Yamaha started from pole, but it was Suzuki mounted James Kelly who led at the end of lap one. Kelly soon had Luke Johnston’s Unlimited Industries BMW on his tail and the Ulster rider took over at the front at the end of lap two. Two laps later Ryan also overtook Kelly with the Kilkenny rider then heading after Johnston and taking the lead on lap six. In the end Ryan took the win with Johnston second and Peter Moloney with his new Suzuki demoting Kelly to fourth.
Race two was an entirely different affair as Ryan made a much better get away to lead by over a second at the end of lap one. Johnston ran second throughout with Kelly initially third before the Mullingar man once again lost out to Moloney in the closing stages.
New rules for 2019 saw the front two rows of the grid reversed for race three but Ryan took little time to fight back from the second row and was into the lead by the end of lap three. Kelly led the opening two laps before dropping to second and then suffering at the hands of Moloney who moved from fifth on the grid to second. Kelly did hold on for this first podium of the season with Johnston the one to miss out on this occasion.
The Superbike Cup class look likely to be just as competitive this season as it was in 2018 with two different winners and five riders taking a podium across the weekend. Dean Fishbourne took the opening victory but failed to finish the remaining two races leaving Joe Grant to grab the wins. Grant started the weekend with a second place with Stephen Magill and Stephen Tracey, both making a first appearance on the podium grabbing the other two runner up spots.
The Supersport class was dominated by Donegal’s Caolán Irwin as he took pole position and three wins. Irwin was followed home in races one and two by Raymond Casey before Casey’s retirement from race three left early race leader Luke O’Higgins to take the final runner-up spot. Mike Browne took third in the opening two races with Darrly Sharkey grabbing third and the Cup class win. Sharkey had earlier taken the Cup spoils in race two with Trevor landers grabbing his first Cup win in Saturday’s opener.
The Principal Insurance Pre-Injection race wins and podiums were shared between three riders with the class looking much more competitive that in recent seasons. Doubling up with his Supersport campaign Darryl Sharkey was joined by Mark Culleton and Colin Murphy as they shared the top three positions equally, taking a win, second and third each to leave them tied at the top of the championship.
With new backing from Ohlins Suspension specialist ‘PCRS bikesport’ the twins championship produced full grids and excellent racing. Making a one off appearance at the Masters, Michael Sweeney took the opening win from Eoin O’Siochru and Ross Irwin before mechanical gremlins saw him fail to finish the remaining two races. Irwin upped his game to take his first ever race win in the second encounter from Vinny Brennan and David Halligan and then doubled up in race three following a race long with Halligan which was only decided at the final corner. The Production class wins went to Jamie Collins,with Jason Cash second three times and third place shared between Robert O’Connell and Mark Quilligan.
The Masters will be back at Mondello Park on May 11th & 12 with rounds four, five and six taking place on the International Track.