It’s tight at the top as Principal Insurance Masters Championship reaches half way

Following a scintillating weekend’s racing in Superbike and Supersport, the battles at the top of the Principal Insurance backed championships could not be closer. As the championship reached its half-way point Waterford’s Brian McCormack and Offaly’s Kevin Keyes shared the Superbike wins while a frantic series of Supersport races produced three different winners.

Saturday’s racing was disrupted by weather and an oil spill, resulting in a delay of over two hours and the shortening of all of the weekend’s opening races. The track marshals did a tremendous job to ensure racing could restart and thanks to their sterling work the entire programme was completed.

The opening Superbike race, running on a damp track and reduced to seven laps, became a two way fight between Kevin Keyes and Cavan rider Alan Kenny. Kenny led initially but was passed by Keyes before he moved back into the lead on the penultimate lap. The pair of Yamaha riders took their battle into the final lap but things got too tight and a collision on the exit of turn three put both out, bringing the race to a premature end and handing the victory to Brian McCormack’s Roadhouse Macau BMW. Kerryman Emmett O’Grady took his TAG Racing Honda to second with Cavan’s Shane Connolly third on his Yamaha. The Cup Battle went the way of Declan Madden on his DM Groundworks BMW, ahead of Seanie Smith and Wayne Tobin.

Sunday’s race two, which was back to full distance on a dry track, produced a three way battle between Keyes McCormack and Kenny. Kenny lead for the first two laps before Keyes and McCormack took over. The top two then produced some very quick laps as they battled for the lead, despite the circuit still having some damp patches, before coming home in the order Keyes, McCormack and Kenny. The Cup win again went to Madden, with Monaghan rider Darren Tierney second and Wexford’s Ronan Waters third.

The final Superbike race produced another epic three way battle as Keyes and McCormack both produced sub 54 second lap times as they pulled away from Emmett O’Grady. Despite their pace O’Grady began to reel them back in and with four laps to go the top three were nose to tail. O’Grady was now the quickest rider on track and passed McCormack with two laps to go. The Kerryman then brought his Waterford rival with him as they closed in on Keyes but the Daracore Racing man held on to take his second win of the weekend with O’Grady and McCormack less than a second behind. The final Cup victory went to Ronan Waters from Declan Madden and Seanie Smith. With dropped scores taken into account McCormack now leads Keyes by a single point with O’Grady still in contention just twenty four points further back. In the Cup, Madden holds a slender six point advantage over Ronan Waters.

The top four in Supersport were this close throughout Race three

The Supersport battle began on Saturday with a wet weather win For Kevin Keyes, who battled past Emmett O’Grady to take the victory by less than two tenths of a second. Cup rider Michael Gillan, from Mayo, took third place overall, along with the Cup class win, after Dubliner Vinny Brennan was penalised for a jump start and Oisin Maher crashed out. Gary Reilly took second in the Cup while Brennan made a very impressive return to the series with third place despite his penalty.

The second Supersport race, on Sunday morning, was one of the best for many seasons as Keyes, O’Grady and Maher swapped positions. Setting the fastest laps of the season so far, the top three ran together throughout and when the chequered flag dropped it was Maher who took a narrow win from O’Grady, while Keyes dropped back as he eventually settled for third place. Michael Gillan again took the top spot in the Cup class, from Gary Reilly and Jack Whearty.

The final Supersport race was even tighter than the second with Michael Sweeney joining the lead battle to make it four at the front. Maher lead initially before Keyes took over. At half distance the young Tipperary rider was back to third as O’Grady took the fight to Keyes but then on lap eight it was all change again as O’Grady dropped back to fourth. The order stayed the same until lap eleven when the AKR teammates Maher and O’Grady started to pile on the pressure. On the next lap the Kerryman got past Sweeney while his teammate took the lead, but Maher pushed a little too hard and fell handing the top spot back to Keyes, who lead from O’Grady and Sweeney as the last lap began. However, O’Grady was in no mood to be beaten again by Keyes and pulled off one of the moves of the weekend to take the lead at the final corner and record his first Supersport win of the season, with Keyes second and Sweeney third. In the Cup division normal order was restored as championship leaders Jack Whearty and Brandon Kavanagh took the top two positions with Michael Gillan third.

In the Megabikes Supertwin class Oisin Maher made up for his Supersport disappointment with two wins, while Michael Sweeney took the third victory. Clare’s Kevin Baker, British Sportbike Championship regular Darragh Crean, from Kerry, and Maher shared the runner up positions. The Production Twin division produced a wet weather win for Michael Murphy, but the return to dry racing on Sunday saw the championship leaders back in control as Mark McGauran and Jeff Quilter finished one two in both of Sunday’s races.

Elsewhere the DM Groundworks Junior Championships produced Junior Supersport wins for Reuben Sherman Boyd and newcomer Joey Milliken, while Max Wherity took his first Moto1 win before Fionn O’Connell returned to the top step with two more victories. The Pre-Injection wins went to Darryl Sharkey, Jake Crean and Ian Prendergast who are now the championship top three. Michael Prendergast and Liam Dunne were winners in Classic Superbikes while teenager Brian O’Malley took his first win in Moto 400 race one and then two more podiums in races two and three behind double race winner Andrew Murphy. The BSB Superteen Championship regular now sits second to Murphy in Moto 400 and leads the way in the Future Stars championship for all under twenty one riders competing across the Masters. The Sidecar victories went to Mark Codd and Eamonn Mulholland, with one win, and Darren O’Dwyer and Mark Gash, who took the other two.

The Principal Insurance Masters Superbike Championship will be back in Mondello Park on July 27th and 28th when riders will get to tackle the full International Track for the first time this season. Despite the longer circuit being used, spectators will still get to see all of the action at the July event as the Megabikes Ballymount big screen will make its return.