Having last won a Masters race at the end of the 2015, Brian McCormack returned to the winners circle in emphatic fashion as he dominated the Dunlop Masters Superbike Championship at Mondello Park over the weekend of May 11th & 12th. The Tramore rider picked up six wins from six races taking victory in all three Superbike encounters and the full compliment of Supersport wins.
McCormack took pole position for Superbike race one but it was championship leader Richie Ryan who led into the first corner. McCormack pushed Ryan had for the first four laps but on the fifth tour a rare mistake from the Kilkenny man saw him crash out leaving the BMW of McCormack in a clear lead. Luke Johnston took second, to close in on Ryan in the championship, while Thomas O'Grady made it an all BMW podium as he took his best finish at the Masters.
At the start of race two Ryan again led away but it did not take McCormack long to get past and he was leading by the end of lap one. As the leader pulled away Ryan fell back into the hands of Johnston who took his BMW into second at half distance. Ryan appeared to be struggling as he dropped further back, almost into the hands of Peter Moloney, who just failed to take the final step on the podium from Ryan.
With the front two rows of the grid reversed for race three McCormack was going to have a tough job if he wanted to take the treble. By the end of lap one he was still sitting in his starting place of fourth when the red flags flew. Making a better getaway at the restart, the Tramore man was into the lead of the four lap sprint by the end of lap one and pulled away to take the win, as a great scrap developed for the remaining podium positions. Moloney held second, having started from pole position, and the Dungarvan native initially held off Corkman Derek Wilson and Ryan, before Johnson moved by them all one by one to take another runner-up spot and move into the championship lead. Frank Doherty got back to winning ways in the Superbike 'Cup' with a pair of victories. A single win for Joe Grant kept him in the 'Cup' series lead while Darragh Trappe and Graeme Smallwoods were the other riders to make the podium.
McCormack's dominance was even more complete in Supersport where having taken pole position he went on to record three more wins, becoming the first rider in the History of the Masters to lock out the Superbike and Supersport top step at one event.
With McCormack in such strong form the rest of the grid were fighting over second place. Ray Casey emerged from all three races with the runner up spot, but had to work hard in each. Supersport newcomer Andrew Murphy, who had damaged his Superbike at the season opener, made the most of a borrowed Yamaha R6 to chase down Casey's Kawasaki in each race, with Luke O'Higgins and leading 'Cup' class racer Michael Owens also getting involved. Murphy came up less than a second short each time as he took an impressive trio of podium finishes on his class debut.
In the 'Cup' championship Owens made a massive leap forward as he took his first ever win, whilst dicing with the overall race leaders. He quickly followed up with two more victories to move ahead of Ian Prendergast into the championship lead. Prendergast, Trevor Landers and Darryl Sharkey all took turns at finishing second to Owens.
In the Principal Insurance Pre-Injection championship, three riders went into the weekend locked together in the top spot. Darryl Sharkey, Colin Murphy and Mark Culleton had won a race each at the season opener and it was those three that once again filled the podium in race 1, in that order. Murphy made a flying start to race two, but his title aspirations suffered a massive blow when he crashed out of the lead doing a lot of damage to his bike. The race once again went to Sharkey, from Culleton and PJ Tobin. Miraculously Murphy was back for race three, with a very battered bike, but he somehow fought his way through to the podium behind Sharkey and Tobin.
The PCRS Twins race saw David Halligan take his first Supertwin win of the season with a lights to flag victory. A mistake on the final lap by Ross Irwin dropped him from second to third in his class and allowed Eoin O'Siochru to take the Supertwin runner up spot. Irwin bounced back to take the remaining two races from Halligan, with Michael Gillan third. Jason Cash won the first Production Twin class from Robert O'Connell and Jamie Collins in race one. For the next two races a battle then raged between Cash and Collins with Dubliner Cash taking two more victories over his Cork rival, each by less than a tenth of a second, while O'Connell picked up two third places.
For more information on the Dunlop Masters Superbike Championship see www.masterssuperbike.ie.