Road racing

Road racing – William Dunlop dies after crash during practice at Skerries 100

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William Dunlop has died after a crash during practice for the Skerries 100 in County Dublin.

The 32-year-old rider from Ballymoney, County Antrim, was a member of the Dunlop dynasty of racing greats and a repeat winner of the North West 200 and Ulster Grand Prix.

Dunlop enjoyed a distinguished career on Ireland’s national road racing scene, accumulating some 108 wins, including four victories at the North West 200 and seven at the Ulster Grand Prix since beginning his career in 2000.

A statement released by the the Skerries 100 organisers, said they “deeply regret” to announce he “passed away following injuries received in a tragic accident”.

“The Loughshinny Motorcycle Supporters Club extends their heartfelt sympathy to William Dunlop’s family and friends,” the statement added. “Our thoughts and prayers are with them at this very sad time.”

Following lengthy discussions with the family, their sponsors and few riders, the club has taken the decision to continue the Skerries 100 races, with he entire prize fund going William’s family.

It will be a non-champiuonship meeting which the club hopes everyone will consider a fitting tribute to William and his previous race performance and results at the Skerries 100.

Tragedy has struck the Dunlop family before; his father Robert died as a result of an accident at the North West 200 in 2008 and his uncle Joey was killed racing in Estonia in 2000.

 

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Road racing – Manxman Dan Kneen dies in practice crash

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It’s been confirmed local rider Dan Kneen has died following a crash in Wednesday evening’s TT practice session.

The 30-year-old was involved in an incident at the Churchtown area of the course, which resulted in a tree catching fire and the session being red flagged.

Kneen had been in promising form in previous practices; not least on Tuesday evening when he was almost 2mph up on his previous best.

That came back in the 2017 Superstock race where he registered the one and only podium finish of his TT career.

He was third quickest on his Tyco BMW on Tuesday night with a 132.26mph lap.

The rest of Wednesday’s action was called off following the incident at Churchtown on Wednesday, with police later confirming the competitor involved was Kneen.

A statement from TT organisers read: “ACU Events Ltd regrets to confirm that Dan Kneen, 30, from Onchan in the Isle of Man died this evening following injuries sustained during the Superbike qualifying session on the Isle of Man.

“Dan had an accident at Churchtown on the first lap of the session and died at the scene of the incident.

“Dan made his mountain course debut at the Manx Grand Prix in 2008 and won an unprecedented three races – the Junior, the Newcomers C and the Ultra Lightweight MGP Races.

“He achieved his first TT podium in last year’s Superstock Race, finishing third in the Superstock TT Race. He has a fastest official lap of 130.347mph which he set in last year’s Superstock Race and recorded a lap of 132.258mph (17:06.994) in last night’s Superbike qualifying session.

“ACU Events Ltd wishes to pass on their deepest sympathy to Dan’s partner Leanne, his family and his many friends in the road racing community and beyond.”

 

Road racing – McGuinness suffers injury setback

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Roads racing ace John McGuinness has revealed that he has had a set-back in his recovery from the broken leg he sustained in an accident at last year’s North West 200.

The 23-time TT winner, who recently signed for Norton after years of racing for Honda, broke his right tibia and fibular last year when he was thrown from his Honda Fireblade at the North West 200 course following a problem with the machine’s ECU.

He had been making good progress in his recovery and was hoping to get his first ride on the Norton SG7 V4-RR this month, but he has revealed he’s suffered a ‘set-back’ – on Twitter he posted: “Not sure what to say, unfortunately my leg has had a bit of a set-back. Sorry I’ve not said sooner, I’ve just been trying to get my head around it all first. To say I’m gutted is an understatement.”

Road racing – Flying Kiwi to miss the 2018 season through illness

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Bruce Anstey is set to miss the 2018 road racing season as he battles illness, his partner has revealed.

The 48-year-old has ‘multiple tumours in his lungs and a tumour on his spine’ as well as a blood clot on the lung, meaning he is highly unlikely to take part in any form of racing this season as he focuses on recovery, but his long-term partner Anny Ramsey refuses to rule the flying Kiwi out of racing in 2018 altogether.

“Unfortunately, Brucey has become ill,” Ramsey posted on her Facebook page. “He has multiple tumours in his lungs, a tumour on his spine, and a blood clot on the lung just to kick him while he’s down.

“I doubt very much Bruce will see any racing this year, but we won’t rule that out lol! He is waiting for a treatment plan and should be starting it very soon. I will try to keep you all updated.”

Get well soon Bruce, wishing you a speedy recovery.

Road racing – Michael Dunlop signs for Tyco BMW

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Michael Dunlop has signed a deal with Tyco BMW to ride one of the team’s Superbikes at the North West 200, Isle of Man TT and Ulster Grand Prix.

Dunlop’s decision means he will be a team-mate of fellow Northern Irishman Alastair Seeley at the North West 200 in May.

Confirming the news, Dunlop admitted his relationship with the Tyco team has not always been cordial.

“Everything has been hot headed and hasn’t been plain sailing,” he said.

“Local lads, local team and it’s very easy to be seen as feisty the last few years between me and the team.

“Tyco BMW and I have spoken many times but nothing ever came of it, but this year everything fell into place. At the end of the day I want to do a job, they want a job done so it’s very very simple. I think it’s a good time for us both to work together and I think both of us can bring something to the table. I’m looking forward to seeing the outcome. We will make a package and make it right.“

Dunlop added that he has worked hard on his fitness in the off-season and “intends to break laps records” on the Tyco Superbike.

“I am more fired up that I ever was and make a point,” said the Ballymoney man, whose 15 Isle of Man TT victories have included five Superbike wins.

Tyco team manager Philip Neill said the partnership with Dunlop “simply had to happen at some point”.

“My father and I, together with all the guys at TAS Racing, are excited and looking forward to the challenge,” added Neill.

Earlier this month Dunlop announced he wouldn’t be racing a Suzuki for the Hawk Racing Team with whom he has enjoyed major Superbike success.

Dunlop will compete in this year’s international road races in the Superstock and Supersport classes on his own MD Racing team’s bikes.

The Northern Irishman holds the outright lap record at the Isle of Man TT and his success in the Senior race in 2017 took his tally of victories at the event to 15.

Dunlop is currently fourth on the all-time solo winners’ list around the 37.7-mile Mountain Course, 11 behind his late uncle, and record holder, Joey Dunlop.

On top of his Senior TT success in 2017, Dunlop also claimed a win in the Supersport class at the Isle of Man meeting, as well as taking the chequered flag at the North West 200 in the same class.

Isle of Man rider Dan Kneen will also ride a Tyco BMW Superbike in the three major international road races meetings.

Road racing – McPint signs for Norton for 2018 TT assault

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23-time TT winner John McGuinness has signed to ride for the Norton factory team in the Superbike and Senior TT Races at the 2018 Isle of Man TT.
McGuinness joins 2015 British Superbike Champion Josh Brookes in a two-man team using the latest specification Norton ‘SG7’ machines, derived from the firm’s flagship V4 RR road bike.

McGuinness last won a Superbike class race in 2015, winning the Senior, which also saw him breaking the outright lap record with a lap of 132.701, which remains his fastest lap around the Mountain Course. He achieved podiums in both the 2016 Superbike and Senior TT but missed last year’s TT races meeting due to serious injuries sustained in the North West 200, which he is still recovering from. However, he expects to be back to full fitness in time for his TT debut with Norton this June.

McGuinness has enjoyed a remarkable TT career and is second only to Joey Dunlop in outright TT victories and is rightly considered as one of the all-time TT greats. In a career that has now stretched over twenty years, he has stood on the Isle of Man TT podium a record 46 times from 78 race finishes and is confident that more success is just around the corner now he has teamed up with this iconic British brand.

Talking about the news of his Norton signing, McGuinness said: “I didn’t want to end my career due to an injury, but the truth is I didn’t know whether I would be able to come back as I didn’t know how fit I was going to be. Right now, things are going well. I feel a lot sharper and my head is in gear and ready to go. The plan is to get the external fixator cage off my leg by the end of this month and after that we can start working towards getting bike fit and testing.”

“I’m definitely ready for a change of manufacturer. I needed an injection of enthusiasm and I’ve found it with Norton. From the first time I met with Stuart Garner the vibe was there and the passion. I watched Steve Hislop win the TT on the Norton in 1992 and it was massive. Everyone remembers that! We can’t get carried away, it’s going to be a big job but I’ve watched a lot of YouTube videos of the bike in action, I watched the bike out on track last year and it’s clearly very fast and capable, and I can tell you there are worse handling bikes out there too, so there’s no reason we can’t do the business if the stars line up right.”

Norton Motorcycles CEO Stuart Garner was equally bullish. He said: “We’ve been talking to John for a year or more, he’s the talent. He’s the man at the TT with the total experience, the results and the pedigree. We have the ambition to win the TT and to go on to develop a really strong team in years to come. We’d got John in our sights for a long time.”

“To get John in the Norton team with his experience and knowledge available is fabulous.  Norton will seize the opportunity to get John involved in all aspects of the bike – he’s a huge asset to Norton. Everyone in the factory has got a huge buzz. It’s pretty special.  We’re all looking forward to the TT but we’ve not set any targets and take nothing for granted. Putting John McGuiness and Norton together is a dream team, but we know all results at the TT are hard earned whatever your name.”

Road racing – plug pulled on 2018 Welsh Road Races

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This year’s much-lauded inaugural Welsh Road Races at Eppynt will not go ahead due to a change in the traffic laws, say organisers.

The move comes after a hearing on January 9 with regard to the repeal of the Road Traffic Act. The repeal was to allow the use of closed Public Roads for Motorsport events. This repeal came into effect yesterday, on the 2nd February.

The Welsh Road Race had gained permissions previously, but the current change in legislation, has put the the timescale of the event into jeopardy, as there will not be enough time to obtain the correct permissions now to permit the event.

“We are working closely with the ACU, Crown Properties and Powys County Council to organise the Welsh Road Race, and under the new changes in legislation, the new deadlines that have been imposed, will make it very difficult to carry out a safe and successful event’, said Derek Smith, Managing Director of the Welsh Road Race.

“The Board of Directors are absolutely devastated, for all the supporters and all concerned with the event. We have began steps to contact all our supporters and sponsors who are involved in the event.”

Quite what the repeal is, and why it has forced the cancellation of the racing, is unclear, but it begs the question as to why organisers weren’t aware of the consequences of the change in legislation prior to launching the races to great fanfare. Thousands of race goers have already booked accommodation for the event, which had failed to attract any of the stars of the road racing world…

First MotoGP, now the road races – seems Wales has much to learn when out comes to staging a world class racing event.

Road racing – Brookes signs for Norton for 2018

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Josh Brookes is set to return to the Isle of Man and will again represent the Norton factory in this year’s Superbike and Senior TT Races.

Australian Brookes, the 2015 British Superbike Champion, will compete on the ‘SG7’, derived from the V4 RR road bike. The bike that Brookes will ride is hand built at Norton’s Donington Hall factory and will continue its development and testing schedule in the hands of two-time TT Race winner – and Norton development rider – Steve Plater.

Brookes enjoyed a successful return to the Mountain Course last year following a two-year absence from the Isle of Man, which included the fastest ever lap around the TT Course by a Norton machine with 130.883mph.The lap was posted in the Senior race, which saw him finish in sixth place, his best finish to date at the TT. He also returned to the Isle of Man later in the year and secured his maiden Mountain Course win with victory in the Bennetts Senior Classic TT Race riding a Paton as well as riding a Rotary Norton to within 5 seconds of Steve Hislop’s fastest ever lap.

Speaking from his home in Australia, Brookes said: “It was a real honour to represent Norton last year. After a couple of years away it took me a bit of time to get dialled in again and despite the weather disruption I really felt comfortable by the end of race week and I’m raring to go again and build on last year with the team and add to their history around the Isle of Man.”

Brookes has enjoyed a meteoric rise at the TT since claiming the fastest newcomer title at the TT in 2013. He finished a best place of seventh in the 2014 Senior Race, which saw him improve his fastest lap to an impressive 129.859mph in only his second year at the island.

 

Road racing – Hutchinson and Johnston sign for factory Honda squad

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Two road racing heavyweights – Ian Hutchinson and Lee Johnston – will be lining up on Honda machinery for the 2018 road racing season.

The experienced duo have signed for Honda Europe Motorsport factory backed outfit and will be contesting the North West 200, Isle of Man TT and the Ulster GP aboard the Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade SP2 in the Superbike and Superstock 1000 classes.

Both Hutchinson and Johnston are no strangers to Honda machinery and in 2010 Hutchy claimed his historic five-TT wins with the Padgetts Honda team. Hugely successful on the roads the ‘Bingley Bullet’ is a 16-time TT winner with 27 TT podiums to his name and will be looking to further add to his tally, as well as claiming the maiden road-racing win for the Fireblade SP2.

Former National Superstock 600 Champion Johnston made his debut at the North West 200 in 2008 and it was 2012 when he first rode the famous TT Mountain Circuit. ‘The General’ has impressed during his time on the roads collecting three wins and six podiums at the NW200, as well as two podiums at the Isle of Man TT. Johnston also has strong links with the Louth-based squad, having worked closely with the Honda Endurance Racing team as its Le Mans 24-hour reserve rider.

Hutchinson said: “I’m really looking forward to getting started with Honda Racing; it’s a new challenge and a fresh start for me. I suppose I have quite a bit of history with Honda, ten years ago I rode with this official team and in 2009/2010 I rode with Padgetts Honda, where I scored five-TT wins in a week, so I know the Fireblade pretty well. I haven’t ridden the Fireblade SP2 yet and will have to wait until we go testing early next year, but I can’t wait to start making some progress. The Honda team has a lot of experience at the TT and its history speaks for itself with the wins and successes over the years, it’s also nice to see a lot of the team still here who I worked with in the past, so I’m confident that come the New Year we can get started and start aiming to where we want to be.”

Johnston was equally excited by the new challenge. He said: “I am genuinely excited about being with Honda Racing next year, I’m probably the most excited I’ve been in years if I’m honest! I have had two tough years and it’s nice to have everything organised and in place early so I have nothing to worry about apart from riding motorbikes. So that for me is the biggest thing and what I wanted more than anything, as I have no outside distractions and I can just concentrate on doing my job. I’ve ridden the Fireblade SP2 already at Le Mans, when I was a reserve rider for the Honda Endurance Racing team, so I’ve got a bit of a head start in that respect. I enjoy riding the CBR, the tank fits me well and it isn’t as big as it looks! I just can’t wait now for testing to start in March and just get going with the new programme for the year.”

Road racing – Martin quits Honda

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Guy Martin has called time on his Honda road racing career after just six months, with the team struggling to get the new Fireblade fit for the roads.

The move is in stark contrast to the moment he joined the team earlier in the year when he was unveiled as team-mate to TT legend John McGuinness.

However, the new bike has been beset with electronic problems – John McGuinness suffered serious injuries when the throttle stuck open during Superbike qualifying at the NW200, and Martin then had a huge crash at the TT after experiencing what he described as ‘a boxful of neutrals’.

The team withdrew the bike from the TT and even though Martin tested at Cadwell a fortnight ago, he still coundn’t gel with the bike he labelled ‘a Jonah’. He said: “I went into the year right excited about the new Honda. I thought it would be great straight away and so did the team. I soon realised that it needed a lot of developing. It will be great, but it needs time and I’ve got loads of other projects going on, that I’d rather use that time for.

“I didn’t get involved to develop a bike over months and years – I was told I’d have a bike capable of winning straight away and that’s why I couldn’t turn down the opportunity.

“The TT was a bloody disaster. Aside from walking the dog and racing the Mugen, I didn’t enjoy it. It was clear even before that we were going to struggle and then it turned into me really being a test rider, which I did, but after we did more testing at Cadwell a few weeks back, I said to the team the bike won’t be competitive at the Ulster Grand Prix. They decided to withdraw me from the event, although they didn’t tell me, which is OK as the decision was made for me.

“There’s no bad feeling. Neil Tuxworth has been upfront with me from the start and it’s a shame for everyone that the new bike hasn’t worked. I know how much effort I put in and so do the team, so no regrets but I’ve got no plans to do anymore road racing on the Hondas this year.”

The father to be revealed that he will still race, but on his own terms. He said: “I’ve not given up on racing or road racing, there’s no unfinished business and I want to race classics and oddball stuff. All I’ve been thinking about recently is Pikes Peak and any spare time my brain has had is about Pikes Peak on 4 wheels. That job is down to me and if it doesn’t work, it’s my fault and I like that. Nigel Racing Corporation (NRC) current plans are preparation for Pikes Peak and classic racing but the plans can change with the wind.”