By Kyle White Belfast Newsletter.
Alastair Seeley has golden chance to add his name to illustrious Sunflower Trophy roll of honour at Bishopscourt
A new name could be added to the illustrious list of Sunflower Trophy winners this weekend as Ireland’s premier short circuit race returns for the first time since 2019.
Road racing legend Joey Dunlop won the inaugural Sunflower race at Aghadowey in 1977 and six-time World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea also clinched the famous trophy in 2006.
On Saturday, Ulster Superbike champion Alastair Seeley will be eager to grasp his chance to lift the coveted silverware for the first time at Bishopscourt in County Down.
Seeley has been in stellar form on the IFS Yamaha R1 over the past two seasons and the Carrickfergus man has won every Superbike race he finished this year, chalking up 15 wins. His only blemish was an uncharacteristic slip-off in the Neil Robinson Memorial feature race at Bishopscourt in July.
Past winner Richard Cooper also returns to the event when the former National Superstock 1000 champion will be riding a 600 Yamaha for the BPE by Russell Racing Team alongside 16-time Isle of Man TT winner Ian Hutchinson, who rode the YZF-R6 for the Northern Ireland team on the roads this year.
Cooper, who will also ride a Ryan Farquhar-built J McC Roofing Kawasaki in the Supertwin class, finished second and third in the British Supersport races at Brands Hatch last weekend and will be hoping to go one better at Irish motorcycle racing’s end-of-season showpiece.
He is also set to ride the 600 Yamaha in the 12-lap Sunflower race and could conceivably be in the frame for the podium should wet weather play a part.
British Superbike rider Christian Iddon edged out Cooper to win the Sunflower Trophy in a thrilling finish in 2019 but won’t be on the grid to defend his crown.
Iddon was due to compete at the event but is a late withdrawal and will instead ride for the Buildbase Hawk Suzuki team at the ‘Race of the Year’ at the Mallory Park circuit.
Hawk Racing owner Stuart Hicken runs the Leicestershire circuit, which he took over with former racer Eddie Roberts in 2013.
“Sorry to say that I won’t be defending the Sunflower trophy this year as originally planned,” Iddon confirmed on social media on Wednesday.
“I hope to return in 2023.”
Richard Cooper twice finished on the podium in the British Supersport races at Brands Hatch last weekend on the BPE Yamaha by Russell Racing. Picture: David Yeomans Photography
Seeley’s chief opposition in the Superbike class is likely to come from National Superstock 1000 race winner Richard Kerr, who won the Neil Robinson race at Bishopscourt on his AMD Motorsport Honda in the summer.
Derek Sheils is another top contender and the southern Irishman will join Aghadowey’s Eunan McGlinchey on the McAdoo Racing Kawasaki machines at the final Ulster Superbike round of the season.
The line-up also includes Jeremy McWilliams on a 600cc Wilson Craig Honda, Korie McGreevy (Century Racing Yamaha), Adam McLean (McLean Racing Yamaha), Jason Lynn (J McC Roofing Kawasaki), Mike Browne (Burrows Engineering/RK Racing), Jonny Campbell (BPE Yamaha R1), Nico Mawhinney (Polaris Racing BMW) and Simon Reid (Start Solar Honda).
British championship riders Sam Laffins, Cameron Dawson and Jamie Lyons will be out to make their mark on home soil after competing in England this year in the National Junior Superstock class.
Qualifying for the Jim Finlay-sponsored Sunflower Trophy meeting takes place from 9.15am on Friday with a 13-race programme scheduled for Saturday.
Weekend admission is £25 (U16s free).