Ireland’s presence in the British championship paddock has grown in rank and file over the years, with that controversial and much loved little island – that floats innocuously, just 20 miles west of Scotland – producing some amazingly talented racers.
Granted, the holy grail that is the MCE British Superbike title has eluded the men from the t32 counties, but one class where the green and white army has made their indelible mark is the Dickies Supersport division.
Michael Laverty and Alastair Seeley are both former champions and currently not one but four green men dominate the middleweight division. And if we add in Seeley on the hybrid Moto2-esque, Spirit machine – which is bolted to the front of the field most weekends – then we have five ‘green meanies’ disputing the victories.
Granted, reigning champion Tarran Mackenzie won the opening six races before grabbing a Moto2 opportunity with both hands, but that aside, people are forever asking, ‘Just what is in the water in Ireland, both north and south, that produces such top quality Supersport riders?’
One man who is, arguably, well-placed to answer that question, and give us his take on who he believes will be this year’s champion is Andy Reid. The 23-year-old Ulsterman, who himself was a British Supersport Championship contender in 2015 and 2016, before injury put him on the sidelines, was expected to join that elite bunch once again this season.
But good things come to those who wait and young Speedy Reidy was installed as a replacement for runaway Italian Davide Giugliano, in the Tyco BMW British Superbike set up just last month.
“That little stretch of water called the Irish Sea makes it so much more expensive for us to go British championship racing and I suppose a bit like Conor McGregor’s ethos in UFC, we’re not here to take part, we’re here to take over,” he smiled.
“But honestly, it’s a case of, be competitive or forget it. It’s too expensive and a waste of people’s time to do it half-heartedly,” he added unrepentantly. “That’s why I think we see so much success coming from Ireland with Supersport a little more affordable, that’s where we seem to produce the biggest talent.”
Speaking of his former middleweight peers and rivals, this is what he said…
Keith Farmer has been around a while and as a former Supermoto rider his skill level and feel for riding a motorbike in all conditions is at a very high level. He’s shown in all classes that he can be competitive; he’s a double British champion which speaks for itself and he’s also a really nice guy off the track. A very humble bloke, but once he puts a helmet on, he’s something else, as he’s now showing this season by leading the championship on the Appleyard Yamaha. He’s my favourite for this year’s title and personally I’d like to see him win it. He knows how to win a title, which gives him an edge over his rivals, and he’s not scared to mix it and get the elbows out if he has to. His race-craft is second to none.
Andrew Irwin has come on a lot. He’s a very fast aggressive rider, but is now staying on the bike and has calmed down a little bit, which is working to his advantage. He is due a win on the Gearlink Kawasaki very soon and I think once it comes, he will get even stronger. Luck hasn’t been on his side at times, but he’s always there or thereabouts, although I think Keith will just have too much for him when it comes down to it.
Jack Kennedy has been around the longest of the current Irish mob in the Supersport class. He finished runner up in the championship back in 2012 and has ridden against some of the best riders British Supersport has had to offer over the last ten years. People like Laverty, Seeley, Crutchlow, Sykes, Camier and Easton. He’s also enjoyed time on the world stage. Again he’s a very experienced rider. He’s maybe not on the best all-round package on the MV Agusta, but he’s making it work for him now, with two wins in the last three races. He’s up there and working hard at it, and he will be in the mix for the rest of the year. But as I say, I don’t think the MV is as proven a package as the Yamaha or the Kawasaki that Keith [Farmer] and Andy [Irwin] are riding.
David Allingham is the least experienced of the bunch but he’s hungry to learn and works very hard at it. His father owns the EHA team and whatever way you look at it, it’s either less pressure or more pressure riding for family. He’s a talented kid with a very good attitude, and was the one rider who was running Tarran close for the wins. But since Taz has moved to Moto2, Dee has shown a bit of inconsistency and maybe a bit of frustration.
Keith is my nailed-on 2017 champion and it will be between Kennedy and Irwin for second and third.
Concluding, Reid added: “Seeley is in there on the Moto2 machine winning races but can’t score points. That’s a whole new debate on whether the Spirit machine should be allowed in the class, but for me it’s the future and makes for more exciting racing. It adds another rider to that business end of the championship and let’s be honest – the fans want to see as many riders as possible challenging for wins; most don’t care about a Moto2 bike being in there. It’s all about the show and that’s why so many people turn up to watch the Irish mafia at work.”