For the first road race of the season the Mid Antrim 150 was a bit of a baptism of…well, mud. The forecast for the meeting was 2 days of torrential rain but, when we stepped off the ferry on Thursday morning to glorious sunshine we were hoping they were wrong. The familiar thrumming of rain on the roof of the van at 1am Friday warned us that they weren’t and we were in for a rough weekend.
The paddock was a mud bath by 10oclock and it was looking like the whole weekend would be cancelled. However, the clerk of the course and the Mid Antrim 150 team did an amazing job and managed to get in all the practice sessions and one race by the end of the day, in fact the only race that was postponed was the 250/400 lightweight.
My first timed qualifying session was the 250/400 lightweight on the Yamaha TZ250. It was pretty hard going even getting the bike out on to the circuit; pushing the beloved 250 through ankle high mud (Glastonbury style). I was racing with new fuel; Hiperflo 250 and was dubious as I have only previously run my old bike on trusty Avgas. Credit to the boys at Vital Equipment and to the lads at Morrow Fuels for their top service there the boys are champion! I was qualifying 2nd fastest but the air intake came unattached and became jammed in between the brake lever and handle bar/throttle, I wasn’t worried about crashing…I just didn’t want to lose it as they cost a fortune!! Titts!!! In the end I was happy to qualify 4th overall.
The second timed qualifying was the Moto 3/ 2-stroke race and I felt much more confident on the bike. The Conti wet front and Bridgestone wet rear gave me lots of confidence and I maintained the fastest lap time until lap 4 when I went into second place.
The third session was the Supertwin qualifying race. Although we had initially planned on riding the RBEngineering Supertwin, the bike is still in development stage and would have been a rush to build in time. We were incredibly grateful to Billy McKinstry who stepped in and allowed us to ride one of his bikes. Billy has been amazing, not only allowing us to ride his bike but also helping out with transport and supplying a well-needed shower and bed after the races. I really wanted to get a good result in the Supertwin for Billy but only managed an 8th place qualifying position.
Saturday bought race day and the weather was much improved although concerns were raised about the safety of the circuit as it was covered in mud; more like a dirt bike event!! Being a welsh man, I’m used to mud and rain… if we didn’t have wet weather in wales we’d have no weather, so I was as keen as mustard. Again the race organisers did a fantastic job of cleaning the circuit and racing commenced as planned, albeit with one lap cut from each race. Our first race was again, the 250/400 lightweight. I was on full wet tyres due to the mud and was amazed to see Paul Robinson on slicks that were covered in mud, I don’t think I was the only person who thought he was as mad as a box of frogs. There was however, an emerging dry line on the circuit. I had a good start and commenced the race in pole but Paul Robinson and Neil Kernohan closed in fast, overtaking me by lap 3; the Continental front wet gave me loads of confidence in the conditions with lots of feel but the Bridgestone rear did not cope with the changing conditions. The race was then red-flagged due to oil on the road and results were called based on the last lap results. Paul definitely had the biggest balls and thoroughly deserved his 2nd place position he was as slick as the rubber on his rims – credit to him. Top job. On return to the paddock I was disappointed to find that the Bridgestone wet rears that I was using had begun to delaminate as a result the bike was really moving around and robbing all the confidence in the bike. However I was mega chuffed with the race overall as I was having a ball overall, having some great battles with some cracking riders.. it was just poetry in motion. The bike was flying…mega.
My second race was the 2-stroke/Moto3 race. I had changed to Conti race-attack tyres and these gave me lots of confidence. They coped really well with both the dry and greasy parts of the circuit and I felt able to push hard on them. I had a really good start and started off with a few seconds lead but Paul Robinson (who had a last minute change of machine onto his Honda RS250) fought me hard and gave a really good race. We were having a right ding dong…all the way to the finish..
My final race of the day was the Supertwin race on the McKinstry Racing ER650. I stayed on dries but the weather was closing in; it had started to rain and you could see the heavy rain coming in from the hills. However, we were out of time to change tyres and I stuck with what we had on. On the start line it was clear that most riders had full wets and after the sighting laps most riders on dry tires had pulled in. I was confident enough on dries and decided to stay in the race. I had a great start and was in 2nd place, although I tried my very best in the conditions on cut tyres, dries are no match for full wets on a wet and greasy circuit and I was unable to hold the position. Ryan Farquar won the supertwin race while Malachi-Mitchell Thomas raced like a seasoned pro to go into second, while I slipped down to seventh place by the end of the first lap and finished in eighth. This was a really disappointing result for me but many plus points… the bike never missed a beat!! We kept her sunny side up and all in all I really enjoyed riding the Mckinstry Racing ER650. I feel that with the wets in we could have had a good go… But that just the way the wind blows.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the people that make the wheels turn. It really would not be at all possible without your kind generosity and continued support. I would also like to thank you all from the bottom of my boots for believing in me. I am so so proud to have such valued support from you guys, it really does go a long way not only financially but mentally also as it is just as important to try my very best for you as it is for myself. So I would like to thank you all again.
KAYMAC Marine & Civil Engineering, REPS Motorcycles, Wilson & Wilding, Fuchs Silkolene, Hicks Logistics, Phil Anslow Coaches, RB Engineering, Team BWR, Steel Horse Café, BR Special Tuning Parts, Miles Preece, Paul Davies, ‘Double Jump’ Dave Saunders, Mum xx
Special Thanks to, Billy & Pam Mckinstry. For showing us kindness and support in Ireland. Top folk!
I would also like to thank my ever suffering partner Becky for all the hard work she puts in all year round, and at the meetings up to her neck in mud, oil & tyres!! I don’t know how she puts up with me! so thanks Bec, xx
Next up is the Tandragee 100, where I’ll be racing the McKinstry Racing Supertwin, Yamaha TZ250 and Ducati Daytona 250.
That’s it Folks!
Ta now, Rhys.