Derek Sheils withdraws from Enkalon Trophy race in wake of friend's death
New John Burrows signing Derek Sheils is a late withdrawal from the Easter Bank Holiday weekend Irish short circuit meetings at Bishopscourt and Kirkistown.
Sheils had been poised to make history on Saturday with the opportunity to become the first rider to win the famous Enkalon Trophy four times at Bishopscourt in Co. Down.
However, the Dublin rider - who has signed to ride for John Burrows’ Cookstown B.E. Racing team in 2016 on an ex-TAS Racing Suzuki Superbike - has pulled out of the race and Monday’s meeting at Kirkistown following the death of his close friend and fellow racer Neil Lyons.
Mr Lyons was tragically killed during a motorcycle rideout last Sunday in Drumree in Co. Meath following a collision with a car.
Sheils achieved his maiden Enkalon win in 2004 before completing a hat-trick with further victories in 2013 and again last season.
Practice and the first set of championship races will be held on Friday at Bishopscourt, where a strong field includes young gun Robert English, who made a stunning debut on the IFS Global Logistics Yamaha R1 last weekend with a Superbike double in the opening round of the Mondello Masters Series.
Reigning Irish Superbike champion Ryan Rainey also rides a 1000cc R1 in the IFS livery as he targets a maiden Enkalon success, while David Haire is gunning for his second victory in the famous race after coming up trumps in 2014.
Nico Mawhinney is another leading candidate and impressed at Bishopscourt in the Sunflower Trophy meeting last October, finishing fourth behind Danny Buchan, Alastair Seeley and Keith Farmer.
Other top entries include Nikki Coates, Cody Nally, Jamie Patterson, Alistair Kirk and Brian McCormack.
William Dunlop is also a late entry on the CD-IC Racing Yamaha Supersport machine, while Bolton’s Malachi Mitchell-Thomas makes his race debut for the Cookstown B.E. Racing team as the Senior Manx Grand Prix winner prepares for a full season in the Irish National and International road races.
Dromara Destroyer Ray McCullough, the first ever winner of the Enkalon Trophy race back in 1977, will be in attendance to hand over the accolade following the 10-lap race, which will take place immediately following the lunch break on Saturday.
The winner of the big race will also pocket a cheque for £1,000, with £600 for the runner-up and £400 for third. Prize money will be paid down to 10th position and the first Supersport rider across the line will receive £500.
The Enkalon race will count as a round of the Ulster and Irish Championships this year, with points scored down to 15th place.
The grid will consist of the fastest 18 riders from qualifying in each of the Superbike and Supersport Pro classes.
Promoted by the Motor Cycle Road Racing Club of Ireland, the action also promises to be hot and heavy in the Supersport class, which is sponsored yet again by Walter Bell & Son Oil Fired Boilers.
Dunlop was a double winner on the Yamaha YZF-R6 last year and should take some pegging back again, although a host of talented Irish championship regulars are out to stop him, including Jason Lynn, Robert Kennedy, Michael Rea, Luke Johnston and Ross Patterson plus newcomer Mitchell-Thomas.
Untimed and timed practice is due to commence at 9am on Friday morning with a full set of championship sprint races for each class pencilled in for later in the afternoon from around 2.30pm.
On Saturday, a short warm-up session will be held from 9am with racing scheduled to get underway around 10am.
Over 200 entries have been received and 31 races have been pencilled in over the course of the two-day meeting.
Admission is £15, including race programme (U16s admitted free of charge when accompanied by an adult).