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Masters Round One

The race is on!

Big Mac and Derek Shiels

Mondello Park kickoned off the long awaited return of Irish Motorcycle Racing, with a thrilling Principal Insurance Superbike Championship season opener at Mondello Park on April 20th and 21st. Watched by a large crowd of spectators eager to get toheir fix of Motorcycle Racing action after a year away, the newly named Principal Insurance Masters did not disappoint as Offaly’s Kevin Keyes and Derry’s Adam McLean were the stars of show. 

Keyes lined up on pole for Superbike race one on Saturday, ahead of double 2022 race winner, Cavan’s Alan Kenny, and former champion Brian McCormack from Waterford. A poor start dropped Keyes back to third early on as McCormack’s BMW took the lead. Reigning Superbike Cup champion Andrew Whearty from Meath briefly ran second but Keyes soon moved his Yamaha past before taking the lead from McCormack. The Waterford man's Road House Macau BMW began to drop back with tyre issues, allowing Cavan’s Shane Connolly, on his Yamaha, to close in. In the end Connolly ran out of laps and had to settle for third as Keyes taking took the Daracore Racing's first Superbike win. Ronan Waters was another first time winner as took the Superbike Cup spoils ahead of Seanie Smith and Declan Madden.

Race two, on Sunday, saw Keyes in even more dominant form as he took the lead from the start and came home over three seconds clear of Kenny, who made a much better start than in race one to remain in contention till the end. Supersport Cup rider Declan Madden on his DM Groundworks BMW finished third, and best of the Cup riders, ahead of Antrim’s Sean Brolly, on his Masters Superbike debut, and Daracore Racing’s Kevin Madigan. 

Keyes again dominated race three, but on this occasion McCormack pushed him all the way to the final laps before deciding to settle for second ahead of Connolly. Waters again took the cup victory in seventh place overall, ahead of Madden and Madigan, who finished off an excellent weekend for Daracore Racing with another podium. After the opening three rounds Keyes now leads the championship from McCormack and Kenny, while in the Cup standings its Madden ahead of Waters and Madigan.

The Supersport riders endured a testing weekend as their three races were stopped a number of times due to incidents. Adam McLean, on his first visit to Mondello Park since winning the opening race of 2021, took pole position for race one and duly held off Keyes for the first Principal Insurance Supersport victory of the season. 

McLean’s JMcC Roofing Kawasaki took the victory by over two seconds from the similar machine of Keyes, with Yamaha mounted Dubliner Michael Sweeney taking a well deserved third place. DM Groundworks backed Meath youngster, Jack Whearty, was pushed hard for top spot in the Supersport Cup class by Wexford’s Brandon Kavanagh with Mayo man Michael Gillan third.

McLean was also on pole for the second race and romped unchallenged to his second win of the weekend. Keyes again finished second, but had to work hard for the runner-up spot as he took the first half of the race to work his way past Oisin Maher and Kerry rider Emmet O’Grady. Tipperary youngster Maher also got by his team mate and former champion O’Grady to take an impressive first podium on the AKR Honda. The top two in the Supersport Cup were Whearty and Kavanagh once again, with Cavan’s Keith Richardson taking his maiden podium finish in third.

McLean did not appear for the final Supersport race of the weekend, as he did not want to put more mileage on his Supersport engine prior to next months North West 200, leaving Keyes and Maher as the main battlers. Maher lead for the opening two laps but the more experienced Keyes moved past and then held Maher at bay to the end, taking the win by just under two seconds, from Maher and Sweeney. The top two positions in the Cup were once again filled by Whearty and Kavanagh but this time they had Corkman James Walsh for company on the podium.

The Megabikes Ballymount Supertwins gave Maher another chance at victory and he took the opportunity with both hands taking three wins on his TAG racing VTL Aprilia. Darragh Crean from Kerry, on a one off ride on a Kawasaki, rather than his usual Elcofire Aprilia, took two second places in the opening two races but failed to finish race three. In his absence Clare man Kevin Baker took the runner-up spot with Sean Brolly taking the final step of the podium in all three races on his series debut.

The DM Groundworks Junior Supersport and Moto1 grid was largely made up of new faces, as the latest crop of future stars got their first taste of race action. The podium places went to a mixture of newcomers and returning riders as 2022 Moto1 champion Reuben Sherman-Boyd took two wins in Junior Supersport, with newcomer Rhys Gates taking the other. The remaining podium positions were taken by Masters novices, Joey Milliken and Alanna Maher. In Moto1 it was newcomers all the way as Fionn Stephens, with two wins, and Fionn O’Connell, with one, shared the top two spots between them, while Joey Hennesy and Buster Sherman-Boyd also made the podium over the weekend.

After an incredibly successful return the Principal Insurance Masters Championship is now preparing for its second event of the season, with the championship returning to Mondello Park on May 18th and 19th. All the information on the opening event and the remaining dates for 2024 can be found on www.masterssuperbike.ie where livestream footage from the exciting first weekend can also by watched.


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