FOR MOST RIDERS the end of the season is all about slowing down, but I stepped up a gear this month. In the last few weeks I’ve done 140mph on the streets of Belfast, raced head to head with Glenn Irwin at The Sunflower Trophy, unveiled a plaque in honour of Rex McCandless, judged the young rider of the year, and done some trackday coaching at Portimao and Almeria on my own Super Duke 1290 R. I was thinking I’d be lucky to fit in maybe one or two events before Xmas, but it’s been non-stop good stuff.
I raced at the Sunflower on one of Ryan Farquhar’s 650 Supertwins, battling with Glenn Irwin and newly crowned BSB SSP300 champ Eunan McGlinchy. It got pretty hectic. As you can guess, these guys didn’t want an old fella showing them the ropes, so we swapped a lot of places and paintwork! I messed up a bit and crashed out of the lead in race one, and Glenn just got me at the finish line in the second. But it was some craic battling with the youngsters – you can’t buy a drug like this, what a buzz. Even Glenn said he’d never had to ride harder, which was nice for me! He made the lovely gesture of giving his earnings from the meeting to William Dunlop’s family.
Next, I had the pleasure of helping judge a brilliant initiative from Mondello Park supporting young racers. The lucky winner of ‘Young Rider of the Year’ gets 11,000 Euros, to help cover some of the major travel costs incurred racing on mainland UK. The competition was very close this year but Caolan Irwin won it. He’s another young, talented Irish rider with great potential. The Red Bull F1 Show run was an incredible night for motorsport in Belfast. The Red Bull team and David Coulthard came along with his F1 car to blast up and down our streets, and I got a call asking if we could join the show on bikes to fill the schedule. 35,000 spectators turned up to watch, and Ryan riding one of his Supertwins for the first time since he had a career-changing spill at the NW200 was always going to go down well.
The show included stunt rider Mattie Griffin and 15-year-old drift car prodigy Conor Shanahan who both put on incredible shows. Ryan rode the 650 Supertwin that I finished second on at the NW200 and the Sunflower races, and I was tearing up the streets on an IFS/Fonacab BSB R1. Both bikes were effectively unsilenced, so the noise between the buildings was incredible. Rain earlier in the day had made the roads pretty slick, so we weren’t looking forward to crossing the white lines on the back wheel into the bus lane, but it was unavoidable.
I managed to get the R1 spinning in fourth, indicating 140mph. I destroyed two rear wets in three five-minute runs, then blew all the coolant out of it after the last fifth-gear burnout Luckily there was no major damage to the motor but runs like these are much harder on an engine than full-on racing...
I was honoured to be asked to unveil a plaque supported by the historic society in memory of legendary Norton Featherbed frame inventor Rex McCandless. Rex had a workshop on the Limestone Road in Belfast and it’s still there today, now with the plaque commemorating his achievements. He designed four-wheel drive and steering for racing cars long before Colin Chapman, as well as the Featherbed, which was the first touse hydraulic forks and shock. It totally changed motorcycle chassis design.
I’m now heading out to Almeria again, then on to a busy Jerez before a two-dayer in Cartagena. I got a blast on around the new 5km Andalucía circuit (on the same site as the Almeria circuit) last week, too: I was impressed how they’ve made it flow so much better than the short one. I posted a couple of onboard laps on the Tracksense website, if you’re having a quieter month than I am...