East Antrim grasstrack event proves a hit

East Antrim rider Glenn McCormick blasts up the hill at the Gleno race. Photo: Colin McIlhaggery
East Antrim rider Glenn McCormick blasts up the hill at the Gleno race. Photo: Colin McIlhaggery

round three of the Norman Watt Grasstrack Championship promoted by the Carrickfergus Club took place in Gleno.

The Suitor Bros/Watt KTM team have a strong showing across all the classes but the spotlight was focused on their number one rider Richard Bird. He went into the final round leading the Expert Class by 40 points, making him strong favourite to clinch the crown for the second year running.

With this in mind, Richard made no mistake around the re-designed McCormick’s Farm circuit, easing his way to three wins from three starts to round off a near perfect season, having dropped just three points in total.

Niall McAuley, who lives just down the road in Larne, posted steady results at the final round even with a few off track excursions to improve on his championship sixth in 2011, taking second in the expert class ahead of another man from East Antrim, William Logan. Phil Harris, William Saunderson and Glenn McCormick completed the top six positions in the premier class.

Champion Bird expressed his gratitude to the Carrickfergus Club for their work promoting the events after the flag. “It’s great to win my second Watt Motorcycles Expert Grasstrack Championship back to back. The grasstracks are great fun and you can see that a lot of effort is put in by the club throughout the series, so I would like to thank them for that.”

There is also good early news for the 2013 championship with Bird already expressing an interest to defend his crown next season. “I plan to be back to defend my title in 2013 and I would hope that more of the top riders come to challenge me next year,” he said.

Ballyclare’s Paul Atkinson has been on form this year in the Clubman MX1 class, leading the way in not only the Grasstrack Championship, but also the Ulster Motocross Championship as he travelled to Gleno. Atkinson rode a perfect round to gain his first grasstrack title finishing on 215 points.

Alan Saunders failed to mount a late challenge against Atkinson but stayed in that second podium position while Iain Dobie took third. Keith Conway clearly enjoyed the wet conditions, posting his personal best results of the series to leapfrog Ricky Suitor and move into fourth. Simon Beggs made use of his enduro background in the Gleno mud to take sixth.

Eleven points separated Ian Dunlop and Don Murray going into the final Clubman MX2 races of the grasstrack season but this was stretched to 33 points at the conclusion when Dunlop grabbed his third and fourth wins of the series. Murray had mixed fortunes though held onto second while Craig Sloan left it to the last minute to make a big jump from seventh to third in the standings. The 155 machine of Chris Kennedy was left to rue his DNF in race two as Derek White, Andrew Lyness and Wayne Oliver pushed him out to take 4th, 5th and 6th respectively.

Stephen McBride continued his form from round two, battling to the top step twice on the night cementing his first Veteran Championship title. Michael Gibson posted finishes of 3-3-4 to put his total up to 165 points which was enough for second place. Richard Watt cautiously made his return to racing after a few weeks out with a knee injury by going 4-2-1, leaving it to the final race to progress above Colin Burns to climb onto the final step of the veterans’ podium. Michael McBride slipped to fifth after the final round while Jim Rodgers fired his KTM into sixth as time was called.

In the quad class, David Wray made his first appearance at a Carrick Club Grasstrack in 2012 where he won all three races but that didn’t make an impact as far as the championship leader Richard Toye was concerned.

Toye rode a sensible race with results of 3-3-5 on the night bringing home his third Quad Grasstrack Championship. Stephen Toye finished in second place in the 2012 series while Gareth Graham took the bronze medal. Colin Forsythe, Steven Smith and Gary McNeill will all be getting a piece of silverware as they rounded off the top six in that order.

In the end the damp conditions didn’t stop play but, in fact, provided some excellent racing in all classes watched by a good crowd of spectators. Once the racing was over, Clerk of Course Gavin Lawther reflected on another successful grasstrack series promoted by the Carrickfergus Club.

“I am delighted with how the grasstrack series has gone, we still have managed to maintain the number of entries for the events which is great to see,” he said.

“We will now look towards our two-day motocross extravaganza in August (24 to 25) at Desertmartin. I think it’s going to be the biggest event yet for us; a good celebration of our five-year anniversary as a re-formed club.”