2024 Cemcor Cookstown 100 Review

The 2024 Cemcor Cookstown 100 may have started with a hailstorm, but it ended with a storming Grand Finale in perfect racing conditions, as the Gladiators of road racing, Dominic Herbertson and Michael Sweeney powered their BMW Superbikes around the 2.1-mile Orittor circuit for 12 pulsating laps, racing wheel to wheel throughout, giving the road race fans their much-needed fix. Friday qualifying saw a mix of squally showers, but brightened up, with the surprise appearance of Michael Dunlop, a last-minute entry on his Hawk Racing Honda Fireblade and MD Racing Triumph 765 machines. Conspicuously absent, was that of one of the pre-event favourites, Mike Browne. Qualifying got underway after a few unforeseen delays, but credit to the Clerk of the Course and his crew, they defied the odds, and where most people had given up hope of seeing any racing on Friday evening, they were again proved wrong, as each of the three proposed races went ahead, much to the delight of those who had braved the inclement weather conditions. As expected, Michael Dunlop had qualified on pole for the Supersport 600 race but was pipped on the final lap of qualifying for pole in the superbike class, when Dominic Herberstson scooped that honour. There was also impressive qualifying from Dean Campbell, who qualified in 6th for the superbike class, whilst Dermot Ceary, having his first outing of the year, had an amazing 3rd in the supersport 600 class! In the invitation open race, Dunlop blasted his new Honda Fireblade into an immediate lead, of which he never looked back, extending his lead at almost 2 seconds per lap, he easily won by over 15 seconds from Herbertson and Sweeney. However, in the Invitation 600 race, things didn’t go to plan, again, leading from the flag, Dunlop's intention of making an early break came crashing down when he high-sided on the exit of McAdoo bend, he was uninjured. The race was stopped, due to another incident, in the re-run, it was Herbertson and Sweeney who provided the fireworks on the cool Friday evening, swopping the lead throughout, with Sweeney getting the verdict. Sunshine greeted the fans for Saturday morning, but they were in for some disappointment, as Dunlop had decided to sit out the remainder of the event, as he prepared for the BSB meeting at Oulton Park this weekend. For local road race team owner, John Burrows, Saturday was a dream come true, as his new signing, Dominic Herbertson would go on to take an amazing four wins, and with it, the Man of the Meeting award, however, arch-rival, Michael Sweeney, returning to road racing following his serious crash at last years North West 200, would keep the Hexham tree surgeon honest throughout the day. The feature race, the Cemcor Cookstown 100, was held over 12 laps, from the drop of the flag, it was Herbertson and Sweeney who led the way, and throughout the following 12 laps, this duo swopped places throughout, real road racing at its best, all eyes were on the final bend to see who would emerge as the winner, both machines appeared together, but it was the RK Racing/Burrows Engineering BMW of Herbertson who held of to take the win by a mere 0.175 seconds!. A long way back came the third place man, Isle of Wight rider, Ryan Whitehall, just getting the better of Kelim Ryan for 3rd spot. Cookstowns Dean Campbell who qualified an amazing 6th, finished 10th. Earlier in the day, Herbertson won the Open ‘A’ race from Neil Kernohan and Sam Johnston, Sweeney was lying second, but his machine developed trouble and he dropped to 4th place. There was joy for Aidan Cleary, as he fought a hard battle in the junior support race to take the win by a mere 2 seconds, in the lightweight 400 race, Cleary would take third, with Darryl Tweed the runaway winner, and the only person to set a new lap record on Saturday! In the supertwin race, Cleary also took 4th behind winner Michael Sweeney. Manx rider Gareth Arnold was an excellent second ahead of Michael Gahan. In the Twin ‘B’ race, Mark Johnson took the win by the narrowest of margins, 0.0008 secs from Kevin Baker. Newcomer Kevin Keyes looked set to take the Open ‘b’ race until his bike suffered mechanical gremlins, however, he did make up for this, by taking a double in the 600 ‘B’races. James Chawke won the Open ‘A’ superbike race, where local rider, Paul Cranston was denied a podium finish by a mere 1 second! Cranston, competing in his 45th Cookstown 100 was twice a Man of the Meeting winner back in 1982/83. There was also joy for another local rider, the evergreen Nigel Moore, who topped the 500 classic race, Nigel, one of road racing's true legends took the win from Anthony McColgan. Andy Hornby won the 1000 classic race whilst Richard Ford took the honours in the 250 class. Sean Brolly was the winner of the senior support race from Keith Richardson and James Doy. However the story of this race was the debut of young Lee Hara, son of former road racer, William Hara, Lee was the youngest rider on the grid and actually led for the opening two laps, he looked set to be a podium finisher, but Keith Richardson, got ahead on corrected time. Lee is the first of the IMC Junior competitors to tackle road racing, the former 140cc minibike champion, has always had his sights on competing on the roads. Local competitor, and race sponsor, Leon Duffy finished 8th place. In his 25th Cookstown 100, Barry Davidson topped the SS300 class from his teammate Lee Osprey. Race fans were long overdue day of road racing, and at the Cemcor Cookstown 100, they were not disappointed, the club put on a faultless show, 15 races, each running full distances, and even took time for a break halfway through the programme! Credit must go to the Clerk of the Course, John Dillon, along with his crew for putting on this magnificent show.

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