Guy Martin’s much heralded return to road racing at yesterday’s Around A Pound Tandragee 100 turned out to be a damp squib when, on the first lap of the opening race, Martin and Paul Jordan had a coming together at Marlacoo Corner, a mile and a half from the start, both crashing out of the action uninjured.
Martin had started from a lowly sixteenth position on his Superstock Honda SP2 and the huge crowd were denied the opportunity to see the TV and road racing personality competing for the first time since 2015 when the feature Tandragee 100 race was cancelled due to heavy rain leaving the track in a treacherous condition and an accident in the Senior Support race that saw an, as yet, unnamed rider need trackside medical attention before being transferred to hospital.
The first race of the 2017 Irish road racing season saw Derek Sheils on the Cookstown BE Suzuki dominate from start to finish, setting the fastest lap of 107.760mph on his way to a 14.194sec victory over William Dunlop riding the Mar-Train R1 Superstock Yamaha kindly loaned to him by Tim Martin for the event.
Derek McGee (Kawasaki) was a further nine seconds back in third with Michael Sweeney, Alan Bonner and Davy Morgan completing the top six ahead of a 2017 Suzuki in the hands of Shaun Anderson who started in the second wave of riders.
Dunlop started favourite for the five-lap Supersport race from pole position, but Mullingar man McGee had other ideas and at the end of the opening lap was nine seconds clear of the IC/Caffrey International Yamaha R6.
With the fastest lap of the race on lap two of 97.30mph with a shower of rain dampening the track McGee, also R6 Yamaha mounted, extended his lead to take the chequered flag sixteen and a half seconds clear of Dunlop with Sheils (Honda) over half a minute back in third.
Jordan, none the worse from his earlier spill, was less than half a second behind Sheils, Graham Kennedy fifth and Paul Williams emerging from Group ‘B’ to claim sixth on corrected time.
The closest finish of the day came in the Moto3/125GP five-lap encounter where Sam Wilson on Joey’s Bar 250cc Moto3 Honda battled throughout with the Mark Hanna 125GP Honda ridden by Adam McLean; the pair never more than a few feet apart with McLean taking the chequered flag just 0.310sec ahead of Wilson, who set the fastest lap of the race on the final lap at 90.967mph. Such was the pairs dominance that third place finisher Nigel Moore was 25secs adrift at the finish.
Junior and Senior Support saw 24-year old Joseph Loughlin from Castleblaney emerge as a ‘man to watch in 2017’ racing to a double.
In the Junior race he set a New Lap Record of 99.495mph as he took his G2-Tech 650cc Kawasaki to a nine second victory over Michael Browne (650cc Suzuki) and the McKinstry 650cc Kawasaki of Jamie Williams.
Loughlin switched to thevisorshop.com 600cc Yamaha for the Senior five-lapper and led from the front taking a nineteen second victory in dodgy conditions over Williams (600cc Honda) and Jonathan Gormley (600cc Kawasaki).
The top nine riders took the chequered flag before the red flag came out to stop the race following an accident.
With the rain getting heavier and following a delay to stabilise the injured competitor it was announced that the remaining two races for Supertwin and Grand Final would not take place.
The rider critically injured was Italian Dario Cecconi, a regular competitor at the North Armagh meeting. The incident happened on the fast run approaching Bells Cross Roads. Mr Cecconi was stabilised by medical personnel trackside before being transferred to Craigavon Hospital.
Earlier Barry Davidson had taken his 500cc Gimbert Honda to a hard fought half a second victory over the 850cc Weslake of Jamie O’Brien in a Classic five-lap encounter with Nigel Moore (350cc Honda) in third spot. Philip Shaw and Brian Mateer were the first 250cc machines home in seventh and eighth position overall.
Des Butler and Darryl Tweed were the winners of the Forgotten Era and Lightweight Supersport races respectively.
The action now moves to the Cookstown 100 on Friday and Saturday with fans hoping for a better day for Guy Martin and his Honda as he tries to stunt the flying start to the season from Sheils, Dunlop, Sweeney and Jordan around the narrow 2.1mile Orritor Circuit where Martin is the second fastest rider ever on a Tyco Suzuki in 2013.