Crowds gathered in County Tipperary for the Faugheen 50 last weekend.
Lap records tumbled throughout the two days, with brilliant performances from Derek Sheils and the new kid on the block Joseph Loughlin.
The local contingent also gave a great account of themselves, with David “Howy” Howard, fresh from his win at the Southern 100, taking a win.
There were a number of podium placings, and that coupled with Micko Sweeney’ s fine performances, made for great viewing under brilliant sunshine at the County Tipperary course.
Like Walderstown, the fans turned out in their droves to see the gladiators of road racing prove that the shop window of motorcycle racing is alive and well.
It was great to see the iconic RC45 Honda of the great Joey Dunlop make a rare appearance, and it really made the weekend for both Derek Sheils and Derek McGee who were chosen by the Dunlop family to ride the classic bike.
Gary Dunlop also took one of his dad’s 250 Honda’s to the course on Sunday to join Derek Sheils, much to the delight of the fans.
The Faugheen club decided to give all the classes free practice on Saturday morning, and then qualifying which went down very well with the riders. After both of these the first of two races took place on Saturday evening. The Classic 500 and 1000 classes were combined, and these races saw the first lap records tumble with English visitor Richard Ford taking the 1000 class win and a lap record of 87.468mph.
The 500 class was a cracking race with Edward Manly and Barry Davidson renewing their Skerries rivalry. They gave a display of close, tight racing with Davidson leading going out on the last lap. As the pair approached Faugheen village, Manly took the lead, but as the pair made the sweep up to the line Davidson had the slightly better drive and took the win by just 0.089 of a second, with Manly smashing the lap record to raise it to 86.166mph.
For some reason Joe Loughlin decided to sit out the Non Championship Junior Support, and in a way it made for a better race as Loughlin had been so fast in qualifying. Oisin Watson took the early lead and looked like he was going to take a handy win. But up came another of the young newcomers, Michael Browne, and he was right on the rear wheel of Watson with two laps to go. On the final circuit, the Cork rider broke the 10 year old record of Mark Young’s, and took the narrowest of wins on the line by just 0.348 of a second from Watson, with Skerries rider David Howard third. Derek Costello took his best result since his return to racing a few weeks ago, finishing in fourth, with on form Darren O’Rourke fifth.
“It’s a good job that there was 10am mass in Faugheen village church as Clerk of the Course Sean Bissett couldn’t start racing until 11 at the earliest. He had the bikes on the road at 11.15am. He never let up, with all races were finishing at 3:15pm.
The first race on Sunday saw the 250’s and the 400 combined, and such is the depletion of the two strokes that there was only one finisher in that class with Irish champion Neil Kernohan placing first on the road in the combined class.
Early 400 leader Darryl Tweed just crossed the line at the end lap two when the engine in his Honda blew in a big way, and this left Seamus Elliott in to take his first win of the season. It was great to see the Ballymoney rider back at Faugheen where he was seriously injured last year and to see the look on his face after winning the race was really a sight to behold. Skerries winner Callum Laidlaw finished in second place, with David Howard once more in third. Duleek rider Mark Sheils was in seventh place.
Joseph Loughlin continued his winning streak in the Senior Support class, and the Castleblaney rider, who has been unbeaten all season in both the Junior and Senior Support class, took a 25 second win from David Howard who just held off the challenge of Alan Johnston on the final lap. Loughlin again smashed the lap record and was just under the magic 100mph lap at 99.873mph.
“As I don’t have the official Championship positions to hand, unofficially it looks impossible that Loughlin will be beaten in the Irish Championship as he has amassed 125 points, with Howard in second on 63 points with only two rounds remaining,” Faugheen 50 Supporters Club PRO John Burke said.
Gladiators of road racing put on masterclass in Tipperary.
The Classic riders produced the goods in the Junior 250/350 class. Richard Ford completed his double, taking the 250 class win and in the process his second lap record of the weekend. He broke the oldest lap record to still stand since 2005, pushing the record to 80.517mph from 76.145mph. Brian Mateer finished in second, with Philip Shaw in third.
The expected battle between Barry Davidson and Ed Manly didn’t even get one lap, as Barry Davidson’s normally reliable Honda toured in at the end of the lap, but this didn’t stop Manly breaking the 2009 record of John Burrows, pushing it to 84.610mph. This win saw Manly now joint second in the all-time winners list at Faugheen on eight wins, with another Classic rider Robert McCrum, who unfortunately crashed out in practice, breaking his collarbone, and was the only injured rider of the weekend. Sean Leonard, who moved into strong contention in the Irish Championship with a 22 point lead with just two rounds remaining, finished second, with Ashbourne rider Herbie Ronan third.
The 600 Supersport class has produced cracking racing all season, with another new name added to the seasons tally. Paul Jordan scored his first win in the class after a thrilling race with only 0.743 of a second separating him and Derek Sheils at the flag. Micko Sweeney finished in a brilliant third place, and it was Tandragee and Skerries winner Derek McGee who finished in fourth place. This opens the championship as Adam McLean was missing from the action, and McGee is on 83 points with Sheils on 76 and Jordan on 71 with two rounds remaining. Andy Farrell came home in seventh.
Just after the 600 race, the large gathering of fans were treated to the spectacle of the iconic RC45 Honda of the late Joey Dunlop. Gary Dunlop brought down the bike that was made so famous by his dad Joey at the 1999 Ulster Grand Prix, and he also took out a 250 Honda that was also raced by his dad in the late 90s. Derek Sheils was the lucky pilot to ride the “Big Bike”. Gary Dunlop said: “I am delighted to take the bike down to this great meeting and give Derek a run on it, and this will be the last time that you will see this bike out on the roads as it will be now retired to its home in the pub”.
Joseph Loughlin once more trounced the opposition in the Junior Support class, setting a new lap record with a 16 second win for the class at 97.300mph. Michael Browne and Oisin Watson fought it out for the lower placing on the leader-board. Browne again shaded the runner up spot by just 0.505 of a second from Watson. Derek Costello finished seventh, with Darren O’Rourke 8th.
Paul Robinson moved to the Moto 3 bikes, giving the bike its first win with a lap record to put the icing on the cake for the vastly experienced Ballymoney rider. He beat Derek McGee by just 0.855 of a second, with Neil Kernohan in third. Sean Leonard had to retire after the warm up lap.
David Howard has been in flying form this season, and after his win at the Southern 100 in the Isle of Man, was full of confidence in the non-championship Senior Support race where he had a great battle with John O’Donovan and Alan Johnston. The trio slogged it out for the full race, and it was Howard by just 1.914 seconds from Johnston, with O’Donovan third. Howard also had the fastest lap of the race at 93.886mph.
Derek McGee took the Man of the Meeting award by just two points from Derek Sheils by virtue of his extra race in the 125 class, with Sheils taking the fastest lap of the meeting and also the fastest Southern rider. Forest Dunn was the furthest travelled, making the journey from Cornwall, with Richard Ford taking the fastest lap by a Classic rider.
“Once more we had a cracking weekend, with sun, lap records, brilliant racing, no red flags, and iconic bikes to entertain us. This spectacle would be great if we could bottle it and bring it with us every race weekend,” Faugheen 50 Supporters Club PRO John Burke smiled.
“Well done to all in the Faugheen club for their efforts and to the riders for treating us to their amazing skills,” John added.