What a treat for the Stryker class to return to the fast and flowing impeccably groomed race circuit that Bishopscourt is and so easy to understand why the bike racers love it here also. Thesun shone all weekend which added to the relaxed atmosphere that Mark Kelly, Gary Manning and their ultra- friendly and efficient team of organisers had created.
Saturday morning untimed practice was array with decisions such as “Will I use my old half eaten soft tyres from three years ago or scrub in my new mediums?” “Let my tyre pressures down or up?” “Go harder on the front shocks or the rear?” and of course “If I really do go flat through turn one without lifting is there a good possibility that I will die?!”
Practise done and into the afternoon qualifying sessions with no fatalities reported at least. True to form Alan Auerbach in the red and black machine- prepared by father and Stryker guru Peter- pops it on pole for both race one and two, with second and third hotly contested by Yeomans, Meehan, Welaratne, D’Alton and Kelly. No doubt Stryker regulars Des Bruton and Dave Griffin could have made it they would have been right in the middle of this punch up too.
All done and the dust settles and the front two rows of the grid look like this.
Race 1: Pole: Auerbach Second: D’Alton Third: Greg Kelly with Welaratne taking up the fourth spot on the less slippy outside of the circuit.
Race 2: Pole: Auerbach Second: Kelly Third: Welaratne Fourth: D’Alton
Lights are out in Race one and Auerbach gets a blistering start as does the Frenchman Welaratne taking second from his fourth spot grid position with Kelly and Yeomans in third and fourth leaving D’Alton spinning wheels on the grid. Auerbach gets and holds a comfortable lead but this is far from the action being over as there are tremendous battles going on back through the field. Bergen is flying and takes two seconds off his qualifying time- narrowly missing the spinning Meehan at turn three by a margin that would make Iceman Kimi’s knees knock. Meehan recovers gracefully and chases down Bergin and D’Alton to take a very respectable sixth place after a heart attack moment like that. X plate and newcomer Dave Reynolds is keeping the motorcycle enduro racing Cork man Mike Ward in his pristine Raw built car honest by matching his time lap for lap and wheel to wheel at speeds of over 180 KPH which is no mean feat after Mike had also improved his Quali time by two seconds. Meanwhile another newcomer Conal Shipman is driving like a pro. giving it his all to keep D’Alton after an off on turn nine behind him constantly banging in lap after lap of 1.20s which gains him the coveted X Trophy for race 1.The two other X Plate men Marnane and Ryan had frustrating weekends after Colin loses his clutch in race one and has an off on race two leaving him trailing the pack. Ryan’s weekend is fraught with brake system Gremlins but no doubt these two will be back in three weeks in Mondello determined to rack up some hard earned Stryker points.
Race Finishes with Auerbach on the top step of the podium with the flying Frenchman taking second and Carlow man Greg Kelly sponsored by G2 karting taking the third step.
Second last race of this beautiful sunny day in county Down where all Strykers are back to the grid for race two and Auerbach gets yet another textbook start Kelly pulls alongside Auerbach only to have an electrical problem which drops him to last. Not that that deters the G2 man who manages to charge his way back to third place breaking the previous Alan Watkins held track record of 1:18.88 multiple times eventually getting past Yeomans and D’Alton who are having a five lap humdinger for the bottom step of the podium with luck not going triathletes Yeomans way after a clutch failure on the 100+ MPH back straight which pushes Dalton onto the grass and lets Kelly through. Another couple of laps and Kelly may very well have caught Welaratne who was lucky to be in the race after engine failure but with the help of many of his Stryker class mates manages to get the club spare installed and running sweetly. Kelly however will leave Bishopscourt happy all the same with two trophies in his bag and a new Stryker lap record of 1:18.325 the battles downstream continued to rage with Reynolds again putting it up to the fully committed Stryker stalwart Mike Ward nipping past him by the narrowest of margins.
The battle may have been won here but the war is not over as Ward remains three points ahead of Reynolds in the championship standings going into round three. Des Meehan manages to keep it on the track for race two and come home with a secure fifth place putting in an impressive lap time of 1:19.5 taking nearly one full second off his race one time. No doubt the support of his beautiful wife Mary who was in attendance all weekend cheering him from the side-lines spurred him on. This leaves him in fifth position in the championship but just a third place puts him right back in front of the fast Frenchman Welaratne in second place should he slip up and have a DNF.
Alan Auerbach finishes the race in first place in style with no major challenge from pole to post giving him an unbeaten run of four in a row. Comments from spectators such as “he clipped that apex to the centimetre every lap” just shows this drivers talent and consistency. It looks like it could be his year but with Bruton and Kelly taking two of the four fastest laps so far he may have a challenge or two to come in the next eight races. It is all to play for and with round three just around the corner on the 4/5 th of June on Mondello’s International circuit there will be a lot of drivers looking for his crown.
Welaratne and Kelly take the other race two podium spots in that order with D’Alton and Meehan the bridesmaids.