The new Southern motorcycing season got underway today in Mondello Park in County Kildare, with the first round of the Dunlop Mondello Masters series. A cool cloudy morning greeted the competitors but as the action began, the sun burst through and basked the circuit into spring sunshine for the rest of the afternoon . Although a cool breeze remained, the track temperature did not drop to a dangerously low level, causing riders grip problems as in previous years.
The much anticipated return of the series got underway with the Supersport race for 600 cc machines. With some riders moving to the UK to race, and last year’s champion Emmet O’Grady moving up to Superbike, the class is now wide open for a new champion to emerge. Donegal’s Caolán Irwin, who showed great form last year, on his Yamha R6 grabbed pole position and led the field into the first corner as race one of the weekend began. The Cork duo of Raymond Casey and Mike Browne, both on Kawasakis, pushed Irwin hard for the early part of the race but his outright pace was to much for the men from the rebel county. Irwin pulled clear as the laps counted down and by setting the fastest lap of the race on lap 6, crossed the line five seconds clear of the field.
In the Superbike class, last years champion Richie Ryan, again riding his Yamaha R1, was the clear favourite and the man for everyone to try and beat. If the recent test weekend was anything to go by, they had their work cut out as Ryan finished that weekend quickest overall. True to form, and clearly carrying over last years confidence with him into qualifying, he set pole position by 0.401 seconds. As the field emerged from turn one, however, Ryan found himself down in third behind Luke Johnston on his BMW S1000RR and James Kelly on his Suzuki GSR1000.
After Johnston passed Kelly, he led the field for the next two laps but as he did, Ryan was also on the move and set about chasing the Ulsterman down. He was past by lap six and never looked back pulling clear and stretching his lead to over two seconds as the chequered flag was waved. Another victory for the Kilkenny man adding to where he left off last year and leaving the rest scratching their heads to find a way of stopping his dominance of the series. It may only be the first round and the first race under their belts but it is hard to see anyone in the current field stopping him.
In the support classes, Alex Duncan did the double in the Junior Cup races. Roads specialist Michael Sweeney ran clear of the field to win the Supertwins race. Colin Murphy was another runaway winner of the first Pre-Injection race and Chris Campbell did the the double in both Classic Superbike races. The Moto 400 races went to Stephen Tobin and Damien Horgan.
The sidecars had their first race also with Derek Lynch and passenger Anthony McDonnell (above) taking the honours in another entertaining race as they were pushed all the way by Peter O’Neill and Brian Butler. The sidecars have a much boosted grid for 2019, and lets hope it continues as they were one of the most entertaining classes of last year. Tomorrow’s action is sure to be even more entertaining with riders and teams having a race now under their belts. Will it be the same winners or will their be a surprise? Only time will tell. Action gets underway at 10.30 am with paddock shows and exhibits on all day for fans to see.
Words and images from Barry Cregg