A version of this article was published in the June issue of Raod Racing Ireland – Kerry Motorsport News is an official content supplier to the world’s only dedicated road racing magazine
When Emmet O’Grady sits down to write his book on his time in motorcycle racing, he will have to dedicate a whole chapter to May 2022.
The Tralee-based racer experienced every raw emotion possible in action-packed ten days that were bookended by an amazing North West 200 debut and ended in a Mondello Park gravel trap.
Inspired by his father John, the well-known mobile rolling road operator and former road racer, O’Grady decided to make his road racing debut in the biggest event in the country.
Initial plans to run a Yamaha R6 in the Supersport class ended when the bike failed to arrive from Japan on time.
Instead, he turned to his friend Darragh Crean who offered up is SuperTwin Aprilia for the closed-road event.
It turned out to be a good call after O’Grady took ninth place in the first race that he finished. A brake calliper issue forced his retirement from race one but there were no such dramas in race two.
“The Twin was a fantastic way to learn the track,” he explained. “It did not scare me. It was like baby steps. Event director Mervyn White encouraged me to enter the Twin class, it was 100 percent the right call by him – there would be too much emotion, too much stress doing it [the North West] on a bigger bike. “
He will return next year, armed this time with his new Yamaha R6 that finally arrived in Ireland the Friday after the County Derry event. He will also take his TAG Racing Honda CBR 1000 to the North West next year.
“Chapter one is completed, and I have set up chapter two nicely,” he added.
O’Grady is one of Ireland’s top short circuit racers. He is a Superbike class frontrunner at Mondello Park and is a former Superport class champion at the County Kildare track.
The North West 200 was a big step.
“It was incredible to be part of something so huge. It is such a big event” he said. “It was an incredible experience, the tri-angle, going from town to town as fast as you can, how is this even legal? And I mean that from someone who has never done a road race and who does not ride bikes on the road. Dealing with cambers, manhole covers, top-speeds into hairpin bends, it was amazing.”
O’Grady was forced to start at the back of the grid for his two races. A fuel sample after qualifying was deemed to be contaminated but a second sample (from the same drum) was said to be fine. Regardless the officials stated he had to start at the back.
“I took it on my chain and just got on with it,” he said.
And get on with it he did. He was by far the fastest rider in the second wave – hitting 150.3 mph on the first speed trap on his way to tenth overall. He was promoted to ninth when Richard Cooper was excluded for a technical infringement that was discovered at post-event scrutiny.
O’Grady narrowly missed out on the newcomers’ award which went to eighth place finisher Gary McCoy on the Mad Bros Kawasaki.
Still on high when he arrived in Mondello Park a few days later for the second Dunlop Masters meeting of the year he learned that his new Maxxus Harris Group Yamaha R6 had finally arrived in the country.
O’Grady was the 2018 Master Supersport champion and showed the Mondello crowd just why he is a former champion.
Straight out of the box, he won the opening race at a canter on Saturday. He backed this up with another dominant class win on Sunday.
“Coming from the North West at 150mph helped me get settled in quicker than usual,” he said, ”But it is all down to the hard-work, training and testing we do too.”
However, his final 600cc race of the weekend came to an unfortunate end on Sunday. Dicing with Shane Connolly, the Cavan man executed an over-ambitious move at Southside that resulted in the two riders being launched into the gravel trap.
O’Grady was also competing in the Superbike class at Mondello Park. Now on his second season on a TAG Honda CBR, his big bike confidence is growing too.
He qualified on pole position – his first pole in the big class – even against such Mondello specialists like Ritchie Ryan.
He backed this up with a second place behind emerging star Alan Kenny (Kawasaki ZX10R) in race one. The second race was won by – of course – Ritchie Ryan with O’Grady fourth.
The final race began, on Sunday evening, just as a dirty rain shower swept in from the southwest.
Many observers on the pit wall questioned if they race should go ahead with most of the grid on slick tyres. They soon had their answer and halfway through the opening lap O’Grady lost grip and ended in the gravel trap for the second time that day.
Soon after the race was red-flagged as the rain got worse with Kenny recording his second win of the weekend.
It was a bitterly disappointing way for O’Grady to end his action-packed fortnight, but three things are for certain.
He is a serious contender for Supersport championship honours this season, his first Superbike win is not far away. And he will return to Portstewart next season better prepared and eager to make an even bigger impression than this year.
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