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McGee man of the meeting

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

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Dubbed the Mullingar Missile, Derek McGee romped away with the Man of the Meeting accolade at last weekend's Around A Pound Tandragee 100 road race, which was held in near-perfect weather conditions.
The first race of the day was for the Open class. Fourth at the end of the first lap, Manx rider Dan Kneen knocked .9 of a second off absent Michael Dunlop's 2011 lap record trying to catch fast starting Derek Sheils. Despite lapping faster than anyone else on the track on the final circuit, Kneen just failed to overhaul Sheils, who took the win by .8 of a second. Derek McGee was a second adrift in third place. There were a couple of local entrants.
Banbridge man Shaun Anderson finished in a fighting 5th place on his Suzuki. He had a quickest lap of 107.2mph.
Sadly another Banbridge man Stephen McKnight didn't take part in the day's racing after a particularly nasty crash during Friday afternoon's practice session wrecked his Supertwin machine.
The next race on the card was the Junior Support class. This was red-flagged on the second lap when Davy Graham had to take to the hedge to avoid a car which had got onto the course at the start finish area.
Although Davy had a sore ankle he was okay, something that can't be said for his bike, which was destroyed. On the restart a four-bike pile up on the approach to Castle Corner brought out the red flags once again. The race was moved to the end of the programme.
The much-anticipated Supersport 600 race was next. Quite simply, there was nobody who could match Derek McGee. Taking over a second a lap out of the rest of the field, McGee romped to a win, 6.7 seconds ahead of Magherafelt's Adam McLean.
Setting the fastest lap of the race wasn't enough to get William Dunlop on terms with the top two, and he had to settle for third position. There were no local riders listed as finishers.
Next up was the commentator's nightmare, the Classic event. Nightmare because there are four races going on at the same time.
Guy Martin was a planned entry on his own Triumph 3, but is apparently still waiting on some gearbox bits for the bike, so didn't appear. For the first couple of laps Liverpool's Jamie Williams was holding a comfortable lead, but his bike cried enough on the third lap, allowing Dean Stimpson into a lead that he never lost again.
Mark Parrett was a distant runner-up, still well ahead of John Pemberton. Barry Davidson took a fairly handy win in the 350. The multiple Irish champion was 23.5 seconds ahead of George Stinson at the line, with Chris McGahon third. Ballyclare rider Brian Mateer took a win in the 250 category, after Phil Shaw stopped.
Mateer was well ahead of Richard Ford, while Gary Hutton finished in third place. There were only two 1000cc machines entered, and one stopped, giving the win to Trevor Stewart. The only local man to take part in the Classic race was Dromore's Mark Johnston on his 350 Honda. Finishing in 16th position on the road, the 6th 350, Mark had a fastest lap of 81.3mph.
The Supertwins race was next up, and proved to be one of the closest and most entertaining of the day. For the entire five laps Derek McGee and Adam McLean were wheel to wheel, both taking turns to lead. Halfway round the last lap McGee passed McLean over the jumps at the back end of the circuit, and held a .9 of a second lead at the flag.
McLean had the consolation of upping Ryan Farquhar's 2016 record by over a second. The top two had pulled well away from Darren Cooper, the third finisher.
Another multi race was for Lightweight 400/Moto3 and Forgotten Era machines. Paul Robinson was the winner in the Moto3 race, but was under severe pressure from Castleblaney rider Joseph Loughlin. Just .2 of a second separated them at the line, with Nigel Moore a lap back in third.
Ballymoney man Darryl Tweed was in a class of his own in the 400 class. He finished almost 11 seconds ahead of Stephen Morrison, while Scottish visitor Vic Allan was third. Setting a new lap record for the FE race, Gareth Keys brought his 350 Yamaha home well ahead of Richard Ford and Des Butler.
Michael Brown totally destroyed the rest of the field, winning the Senior Support race by almost 28 seconds. Try as he might, his fellow Cork rider Wayne Sheehan could not even come close, his quickest lap being almost 5 seconds slower. William Hara from Coleraine took third place.
The Superbikes were the penultimate event. Derek Sheils blasted away from the line, chased by Derek McGee, Michael Sweeney and Dan Kneen. In the closing stages of the race Kneen got his head down, gradually moving through to take the race win by .4 of a second from McGee. Sheils was .05 back in third, while Micko Sweeney was right in his wheeltracks.
Having had their race red-flagged twice earlier in the day, the decision was made to give a three-lap race to the Junior Support riders after the Superbikes. Right from the start, brothers Wayne and Barry Sheehan fought this one out.
Wayne got the better of it by under a second, while Stephen Morrison finished in third place. Mark Johnston finished in 15th place in this one, having a fastest lap of 83.8mph.
It was a day's racing that will stick in my memory for a long time and not only because of the great weather.

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