Local riders set the pace in a memorable year of biking sport

Andrew Irwin leads Carl Philips and Marty Lennon to the chequered flag. INLT 01-901-CON
Andrew Irwin leads Carl Philips and Marty Lennon to the chequered flag. INLT 01-901-CON

Looking back over the 2011 racing season, local riders have had their fair share of success and in the next few lines and photos I will hope to reflect on their achievements.

Carrick’s Alastair Seeley was employed by the Relentless by TAS Suzuki team at the start of the year to challenge for the British supersport title and score wins at the NW200. The ‘wee wizard’ delivered on both fronts, taking the British championship after a long battle with Ben Wilson, which went to the final race of the year at Brands Hatch.

The NW200 organisers had their own problems, with the meeting being abandoned in the end, but not before Seeley took victory in the only race to be run. Not surprisingly, he has been given the opportunity to race in the 2012 British superbike series on the Tyco Suzuki.

There must be something in the Carrick water, as Glenn Irwin made his mark in the British 600 superstock series, taking three wins and being runner-up in the championship. Glenn will join the Racedays Kawasaki squad for the 2012 European Superstock 600 campaign.

On the world scene, Jonathan Rea should have been challenging for the superbike world title, but a serious injury at Misano ruled him out for three races and by the time he returned any chance of championship glory was gone.

Rea did, however, show his class as he won at Assen and Imola and he believes that Castrol Honda have got their act together for 2012 and has re-signed for what he reckons will be his year.

His great rival and friend Eugene Laverty could be his biggest challenger as the local rider has joined Aprilia after his debut season on the Yamaha brought two wins and fourth place in the championship.

At home, a rising star appeared in the supertwins class: Carrick’s Andrew Irwin finished runner-up in the Irish championship, fourth in the Ulster. September at Bishopscourt saw the talented local win a sensational opening 650 supertwins race on the Aquarius Couriers Suzuki to prove just what a threat he will be to the established names in 2012.

Former champion Lee Hill, on the JHS/NH Trade Frames Suzuki, ended the year with third in the Ulster and fifth in the Irish.

Richard Rea had his moment of glory in late August, when he won the King of the Corner trophy at Nutts Corner. The Rea Racing BMW rider was making his debut at the short Nutts Corner venue and under the watchful eye of his father Johnny, who had won the race himself in the late 80s, Richard took an emotional victory.

Richard ended the year in plaster after breaking a leg at the Sunflower meeting, buthe is fit and well again and looking forward to putting the troubles of 2011 behind him.

July saw local rider Jamie Hamilton claim the first superbike win of his career when he took the CW Racing Kawasaki to a hard-fought victory over Denver Robb. Before the year was out however, Jamie had shifted the emphasis of his racing career by joining Ryan Farquhar’s road race team, which means that the likeable Ballyclare rider will make his Isle of Man TT debut in 2012.

On the off-road scene, East Antrim riders always come to the fore. On the British championship front, Doagh’s Martin Barr took the Proppa KTM to third in the British MX1 and was runner-up in the Red Bull Pro national series. For 2012 he has joined the Maxxis Henderson LPE Kawasaki team and hopes the move will give him his best chance yet to lift both the MX1 British and the Red Bull pro national titles.