By Kyle White Belfast Newsletter
Nine-time Cookstown 100 winner Derek Sheils is set to miss the event this weekend.
Sheils has been the dominant force in the Superbike class around the 2.1-mile Orritor course in recent years and has won eight times in the showpiece class since his first victory in the Open race in 2014.
The Republic of Ireland rider took the honours in the sole Superbike race at the Cookstown 100 last year on the Roadhouse Macau BMW, when the Co Tyrone meeting was the only Irish road race to go ahead after the Covid-19 decimated the calendar.
Most road races were cancelled again this year, including the North West 200 and Isle of Man TT, with Armoy in July and Cookstown this weekend the only Irish national events left standing.
Sheils has been on the top draws at Cookstown over the past seven years, but the big Dubliner says he intends to give the final Irish road race of the year a miss.
“I’m probably not going to go to Cookstown now and I sort of made up my mind over the course of the winter that I wasn’t going to do it,” Sheils told the News Letter.
“It’s one of the places I go well at and we’ve managed to win a few big bike races at Cookstown over the last number of years, but unless I change my mind drastically then I’ve no plans to do it this year.
“I’ll do the last couple of rounds of the Dunlop Masters and see if we can make a run for the championship, but other than that, I won’t be doing much else this year.
“It’s been another quiet year but hopefully next year we’ll see a few more road races back up and running again.”
It is understood the multiple Irish and Ulster Superbike roads champion was unhappy with the treatment he received from some members within the organising Cookstown Club last year, which may have influenced his decision to consider skipping the race.
His absence would exacerbate an entry list missing fellow top southern Irish rider Derek McGee, who was ruled out of Cookstown after breaking his pelvis in seven places following a crash on a pit bike during training last week.
Michael Dunlop will also be a non-starter this weekend after taking up an offer to compete in the British Supersport Championship at Silverstone.
Dunlop, who last raced at Cookstown in 2018, will ride for Simon Buckmaster’s PTR-run Dynavolt Triumph team alongside regular rider Kyle Smith.
The 19-time Isle of Man TT winner was called into the team as a replacement for American Brandon Paasch, who broke his scaphoid in an incident at Snetterton.
With three of the major frontrunners at Cookstown now out of the picture, a number of other contenders will fancy their chances of taking full advantage of the opportunity.
Adam McLean was a double winner last year, sealing wins in the Supersport and Supertwin races at the McAdoo Kawasaki team’s home meeting.
The Tobermore man will again line up as one of the big favourites along with Michael Sweeney, who took the runner-up spot on his MJR BMW in last year’s Superbike race behind Sheils.
Cork’s Mike Browne is targeting the rostrum for the Burrows Engineering/RK Racing team, while Darryl Tweed will be back in action in the McAdoo colours following a crash at Armoy in July.
Magherafelt’s Paul Jordan, who split from John Burrows’ team after Armoy, is also among the entries. Jordan rode for the Prez Racing team on a Yamaha R6 at Bishopscourt last month amid speculation he will join the team for the 2022 season.
Roads will close at 10am for practice on Friday, and from 7am on Saturday, re-opening no later than 9pm on both days. No vehicles will be permitted on the course from 10.30am on Friday and 9am on the main race day.
Three races are planned on Friday following practice (Open B, Senior Support B and Supersport 600 B).
The main race bill on Saturday features 12 races.