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May
27

Pure Racing

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Ireland’s premier road race has suffered from poor weather in recent years, which is a shame because racing on the closed roads between Portrush, Portstewart and Colraine is probably the best I have seen in thirty years of watching racing.
William Dunlop on Guy Martin’s back wheel entering the Ballysally roundabout
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The partisan Irish crowd add to the occasion, as the Dunlop brothers duke it out in Saturday’s first Superbike race, with William heading Michael home on the Tyco Suzuki GSXR1000, a popular win amongst those around us.

First lap dueliing at York Corner

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Michael took the second Superbike race later in the day breaking the lap record twice before taking the chequered flag and takes the man of the meeting for his performances having also won the Superstock race earlier in the day, steering the BMWS1000RR to its first international road race wins.  Josh Brookes busts the overall lap record at 122.958mph, coming in second, not bad for his second season on the roads, ahead of Seeley in third.
The conditions are challenging with rain showers across the circuit 20 minutes before the first race, riders and teams have to select the tyres they think will offer the best grip given the dry, damp, wet nature of the roads at any point on the 8.9 mile course and there’s all combinations of slicks, intermediates and wets.
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Setting off in waves of riders, the front runners from practice are soon braking hard for the tight left of York Corner before heading out on the first “straight” to University, across the link road to the Ballysally roundabout for the long run to Metropole at Portrush, broken up by the Mather and Magherabouy chicanes.
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The helicopter provides footage, beaming pictures to the big screens dotted round the circuit, although the combination of the wayward cameraman loosing track of the bikes at race speeds and the dodgy uplink causing blue screens at critical moments has the crowd groaning and cheering as pictures are lost then regained again.
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All of the classes benefit from slipstreaming the bike in front with the Superbikes hitting just over 200mph at times.  I have previously thought that slipstreaming wasn’t real racing, that a circuit should be tight n twisty testing riders abilities, braking, cornering and accelerating but watching the riders jockeying for position from the airborne coverage proves to be some of the most exciting racing you will ever witness.

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Riders slingshotting past each other at ridiculous speeds, squeezing through bike only sized gaps, no one manufacturer seems to have the faster machine, all seem capable of using those extra few miles per hour to gain a place, whether that place is held depends on braking and corner speed to make it stick.  Seeley is so fast through the coastal road section he manages to pip Guy Martin in Thursday’s Supersport race, the lead having changed several times between the pair on the last lap.
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The ride back to Bushmills on the just opened roads is worth mentioning, its bedlam, bikes of all shapes and sizes vying for position in amongst the cars streaming along the coast road, Michael Dunlop is still on the podium having his picture taken as we filter by, dodging wayward pedestrians crossing the almost gridlocked road.

 

We call in at Bushmills for some refreshing apple juice to see us through the evening, then listen to the rain beating down on the tin roof of the loft barn we are staying in, the early Sunday morning ride is going to be wet!
The lad likes to look after his new toy
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In amongst all the racing we squeeze in visits to Joey’s bar for a coffee, Colraine to meet the riders, although only McG is in evidence while we are there and a pint of the black nectar at the Harbour bar in Port Rush.
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The racing is compelling, the riders dealing with all the variances that road racing offers.  These aren’t motorway wide circuits with run off areas but closed roads with all the roadside furniture to focus the mind.  Riders seem to be able to not ignore but deal with that part of the brain that should by all rights stop the right wrist from making a bike travel at such speeds past Mrs Smith’s front door or trail a knee round a roundabout in the wrong direction – you should go and see for yourself!
Metropole. a cracking place to watch
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And later in the day all this seems to be made so insignificant as it is announced that Simon Andrews has passed after crashing before Metropole in the Superstock racing on Saturday.  I think we all accept the risks of riding whether it be on the road or track but it doesn’t make it any less difficult to hear that the event, enjoyed by many, has been tainted by his passing.