By Fergus Brennan
Dubliner Thomas O’Grady will take a three point advantage into the final weekend of the 2022 Dunlop Masters Superbike Championship following an incident packed penultimate event at Mondello Park last weekend. With just one triple header left to run O’Grady moved his EICL Yamaha back into the championship lead, following another strong weekend, helped by some mechanical issues for Derek Sheils’ Roadhouse Macau BMW. The other title contender, Cavan’s Alan Kenny, kept his hopes of lifting the crown alive with two third places and a fourth.
The Championship top three lined up on the front row of the grid for race one with O’Grady on pole followed by Sheils and Kenny. An impressive start by Superbike Cup competitor Andrew Whearty on his BMW saw him get ahead of Kenny in the early laps and this allowed O’Grady and Sheils to break clear. By the time Kenny got past the Meath man the leaders were too far ahead to catch. At the flag O’Grady held on by less than a second to take his third win of the campaign from Sheils. Whearty kept the Cup lead ahead of Cork’s Jamie Collins and Daniel Matheson from County Down.
Race two started without pole sitter Sheils, following clutch issues, meaning that fourth placed Josh Elliot, making his Masters Superbike debut, had a clear run to the first corner. The ex British Superbike race winner used the clear track to grab second place and then out-braked O’Grady for the lead at the end of lap one. From there on Elliott was never challenged as the battle for second and the all important championship points raged on behind him. Kenny shadowed O’Grady all the way and got by on the inside at Southside Motor Factors corner on the final lap but lost out in a drag race to the line and had to settle for third. Jamie Collins took the Cup win from Whearty and Matheson.
Sheils was back for the final race and despite lining up seventh on the grid the former champion was leading by the end of the opening lap. Kerryman Emmet O’Grady sat second with Kenny, Elliott and Thomas O’Grady next up. Elliott worked his way up to second on lap three leaving Emmett O’Grady, Kenny and Thomas O’Grady to battle over third. Following four laps of incredibly close dicing everything changed at half distance as Kenny went up the inside of Emmett at Maxus corner only to find Thomas also on his inside. Somehow all three got through the first turn but at the exit the order was reversed with Thomas in third ahead of Alan and Emmett. The Cup battle also took a significant turn at Maxus corner, Collins had just lost the lead to Whearty and was fighting back on the inside of his rival when Whearty got his braking wrong and ran on into the gravel trap and out of the race. The incident gave Collins the Cup Championship lead as he came home ahead of Matheson and first time podium visitor Damien Horgan. Up at the front, despite his issues, Sheils was able to hold on for his sixth win of the season to keep the pressure on Thomas O’Grady in the championship chase.
All three Supersport races were punctuated by incidents and race stops as the battle for the championship got hotter. Saturday’s opening race was stopped twice before being postponed to the end of the day. When it did run the AKR Thomas Bourne Racing Honda of Josh Elliott took the win following a race long battle with fellow British Championship refugee, Offaly’s Kevin Keyes, on the Daracore Kawasaki. Championship leader at the start of the weekend, Emmett O’Grady on the Harris Group Yamaha, came home third. The Cup win went to Dean Lacey for the second time this year, with Kerry’s Jack O’Grady finishing second to claw back ground on points leader A Jay Carey, who crashed his Honda. Darren Clarke from Cavan came home third to take his first ever podium.
Elliott continued his new found dominance of the Supersport class in Sunday’s race two which was once again interrupted by stoppages, beating Keyes and O’Grady to the flag. The win was enough to move him into the championship lead for the first time, despite competing in three less rounds than his fellow competitors. Having earlier taken his first Cup podium, Darren Clark made another leap forward as he recorded his first Cup win, ahead of Meath man Jason Floody and another podium debutant, Tipperary’s Ryan Maher. Supersport race three was the only one of the weekend to run its full distance and once again it was Elliott from Keys but this time Antrim’s Jonny Campbell took the final podium spot with his Magic Bullet Yamaha. The Cup class produced yet another first time winner as Jason Floody took the top spot from Lacey and Jack O’Grady, who moved into a twelve point championship lead ahead of the absent A Jay Carey, following his race one crash.
The new for 2022 points scoring system has produced closer battles than previously seen in almost all of the support classes with the Principal Insurance Twins amongst the tightest. In Supertwins the battle remains between Thomas O’Grady and Darragh Crean with both riding the new for ‘22 Aprilia RS660 machines. O’Grady took the wins in races one and three, with Crean second in both, but due to the pressure of the championship chase both were too eager to get away from the lights in race two and received jump start penalties. From the outside of the front row, Vinny Brennan, on his first 2022 visit to the Masters, clearly witnessed the infringements and showed his experience by following the top two home knowing he would take the race win after penalties were applied. The Production class pendulum swung towards Nathan McGauran over the three races as he took two wins to Brandon Kavanagh’s one. This has been the battle of the season with the two riders rarely more than a few feet apart throughout every race weekend and will surely be one of the most keenly contested titles at the final event of the season.
In the DM Groundworks and FJS Plant Junior Supersport races Rossi Dobson built a very strong championship lead with two wins from three as Adam Brown took the third. Former series leader Jack Whearty is now the only rider who can stop him from becoming champion. In the concurrent Moto1 races, youngster Reuben Sherman-Body continued his 100% win record, as he wrapped up that championship, just one of two that were decided before the final event of the season. The other title to be decided at the penultimate Masters weekend was Pre-Injection 600 which went to double race winner Noel Dunne Jnr.
The Masters Shoot Out is now set for a thrilling climax on the Mondello Park International Track on September 24th & 25th with thirteen championships still to be decided.
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