Darren Keys, from Ballyclare, completed the 2015 season as runner-up in both the Ulster and Irish Supersport Cup Championships. And for a rider who only took up racing two years ago it was quite an achievement.
“My first season in racing came to an abrupt end when I crashed at Bishopscourt and broke a few bones but I was bitten by the bug and couldn’t wait until the start of the 2015 season to get racing again,” he recalled.
During the season just finished, the local rider, whose motorcycling career began in schoolboys trials where he finished runner-up in the Ulster and Irish championship, took four wins - the last at the end-of-season Sunflower Trophy meeting.
“I started the season on the bike I finished 2015 on, but decided to change half way through the year to a newer GSXR 600 Suzuki, just to get a wee bit more power and it paid off as I had wins at Bishopscourt, Kirkistown, St. Angelo and Mondello Park.”
To help with the preparation for the new season, Darren will travel to Spain at the end of February for three track days at Cartagena under the guidance of ex-British and European championship racer Woolsey Coulter, who is one of the few riders to ever beat multi-world champion Max Biaggi. So he will be in good company and should pick up plenty of useful information for the forthcoming season.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” Darren said. “Getting track time before the new season will be invaluable. After returning home I will have two weeks before the Enkalon Trophy meeting at Bishopscourt, the opening race of a busy year”.
Darren has other ambitions during 2016 with the first being a trip across the water to a Thundersport meeting.
“I don’t reckon I’ll win the Supersport Championship so along with a couple of other riders I am going to take in at least one of the Thundersport rounds in England.
“I am lucky in that I get great support from local companies like Need for Speed GoKarting in Doagh, Faith Hair and Nails Ballyclare, Phillip Holland Car Sales and Ian Fleck Graphics. Without them I wouldn’t be racing at all, so I can’t thank them enough. Also, I couldn’t have done it without the support of my wife Justine, my brother Richard who does pit crew and my mum and dad, Clinton and Hilda, who have been behind me all the way over the past two seasons.”
His second ambition this year is to try his hand at road racing. When he mentioned he was considering having a go on the roads this year Justine’s enthusiasm didn’t seem to match Darren’s.
“I would like to get one in before the end of the season - one of the smaller ones. Although Justine says I’m not going road racing, I’ll work on that one,” he laughed.
“My racing is very family orientated and when they are all there they seem to bring me good luck. My first-ever win was at Kirkistown and my kids Charlie, Molly and Harry - who is bike mad - were there cheering me on.”
The 2016 season will see Keys move into the Supersport Pro level and it’s one he feels he can go well in.
“It will be a step up when I move into the Supersport Pro class but I aim to run in the top 10 throughout the year. I was consistently inside the top 15 in 2015 within the pro riders last year so I don’t see why I can’t move it up a gear in 2016 in the Supersport Pro class.”
Number 94 should be worth keeping an eye out for in the Supersport class this year.