By Kyle White:- Belfast Newsletter.
Kells in Co Meath hosts the first Irish road race in the Republic of Ireland for almost three years this weekend ahead of a hectic summer schedule.
The coronavirus pandemic led to the cancellation of all national meetings in the south in 2020 and 2021, with the East Coast Festival at the Killalane course in Co Dublin the last road race held in Ireland in September 2019.
On that occasion, Michael Sweeney claimed a four-timer and the Skerries man will be among the favourites today, a week after returning home from the Isle of Man TT.
Sweeney’s goal this season is to win the Irish and Ulster Superbike titles on the MJR BMW, and on Saturday he topped the time sheets in the Superbike, Supersport and Supertwin classes.
Ballymoney man Darryl Tweed is among the entries at Kells, where he will ride a CBR600RR Honda for Wilson Craig Racing.
Tweed was handed the chance to race for Darren Gilpin’s team at the North West 200 in the Supersport class after his own machine expired during Tuesday practice.
He was set to make his debut at the Isle of Man TT, but Tweed was let down after promises of financial support did not come to fruition.
It was a frustrating few weeks for the Manx Grand Prix winner, who had a Wilson Craig Honda 600 waiting for him in the TT paddock.
However, he can now look ahead to remainder of the season on the WCR machines after Yorkshire’s Joey Thompson parted company from the team after a disappointing TT.
Tweed was second fastest behind Sweeney in Supersport qualifying at Kells and third overall in the Open class on the 600 Honda.
Impressive Frenchman Pierre Yves Bian – a Supertwin winner at the North West after Richard Cooper was disqualified from the results – will also make selected appearances in the WCR colours and is due to link up with Tweed at the Armoy Road Races at the end of July.
Mullingar’s Thomas Maxwell should also be in the mix this weekend at Kells on his Kawasaki ZX-10R, although Cork’s Mike Browne misses out as he takes a break after a physically gruelling two weeks at the Isle of Man TT.
Browne made his racing return on the island after missing the Tandragee 100 and North West 200 following a crash at the Cookstown 100, which left him with two broken ankles.
The Burrows Engineering/RK Racing rider rode through the pain barrier at the TT and sealed a battling ninth place in the second Supersport race, lapping at 123.4mph.
He was also on course for a potential top-10 finish in the Senior last Saturday until he was forced out on the fifth lap, but Browne had the consolation of setting his fastest lap at 126.679mph on the Suzuki GSX-R1000.
Team owner John Burrows said: “Mike is sitting out Kells this weekend and that will give him a three-week break until Skerries and some time to recharge and let his ankles heal further.
“The TT was quite harsh on his body and Mike did an amazing job considering the pain he was in with his ankles. But the more race week went on, the fitter he was getting.
“While we were on the island, Mike was getting physio twice a day, he was being seen by doctors and he had some laser treatment as well, so that all definitely helped him, but this break now until Skerries will do him good.
“The first time Mike rode a bike since his crash at Cookstown was when he set off down Bray Hill on the Superstock bike in practice, so he did a fantastic job for us and we’ll be expecting to be in the hunt at the national road races coming up over the next few months.”
Roads close at Kells on Sunday at 8am with the with the first race at approximately 11am.