Updated: Nov 30, 2022
Little did anyone think that on the first weekend in November we'd be still watching 2 wheeled action, let alone in Ireland! The WCMCC put the wheels in motion a few weeks back and set out their intention to hold a 1-day pit bike raceday and their hard work was rewarded last Sunday with a great turnout in Watergrasshill at the Kartwold Adventure centre. A steady flow of the mid-sized race bikes were wheeled off transporters, trailers and from the back of all sorts of vans as the MCI scrutineering team got to work as daylight broke.
With everyone safely checked in the order of the day was set out with the stock entries being split in to 2 groups as they got their practice sessions underway. Next up it was the turn of the Junior ranks or the Boom Booms as they were Christened for this event. Despite the inclement weather conditions which competitors faced it was refreshing to see the future stars of tarmac racing getting to grips with the challenging conditions from the get-go. The Senior Vets and the Senior Open were the remaining classes to warm up (if you could call it that with the wet weather dampening proceedings regularly) with a good crossover of these riders across the Stock groups also.
The early pacesetter were some familiar names with road racing exponent Keelim Ryan pushing young Josh O'Brien all the way in the preliminaries. In Group 2 Kyle Walsh was pushing the limits and Alan Buckley was also to the fore for qualification. The Boom Booms saw Ella Mosgrove, Cathal Casey, the Finnerty siblings and Emma Kelly all get acquainted quickly completing steady laps in qualifying with Cathal narrowly pipping Ella to the top of the timesheets. The Vets saw Keelim get to grips quickly and ran in the fastest qualifying from William Roberts and Kelan Smith. The Senior Open qualifying session saw the number very well turned-out No.117 of Reece Lennox find pole position from Jeff Quilter, Keelim, Haydn Walsh, Kevin Keyes and last but by no means least Barry Sheehan.
The first race of the morning fell the way of the first Stock 1 group and as the lights went out, Josh O'Brien set out with the target in his back from the front but as they settled in after the first lap it was between Quilter and Keelim Ryan who would finish out the podium. There was a great midfield battle between Keyes, Roberts, Brian Murphy, and Smith. In Race 2 young man from Killeady was out to get one over O'Brien and make amends for Race 1 and pushed him in the early stages but the Kildare teenager took the lead on Lap 3 and never looked back to take victory by 3s. Kevin Keyes took 3rd from William Roberts in 4th followed closely by Stephen Sheehy and Brian Murphy.
Stock 2 saw Alan Buckley and Finbar Harte lead from the front and the pair finished as they started in 1st and 2nd respectively. Kyle Walsh took the 3rd place spot and Conor Tobin wasn't far behind in 4th. Race 2 was a case of youth following experience as 1 of the younger riders rose to the top with Manus Siugzeinis in with a shout in the early stages while Alan Buckley did everything to stay with the Walsh and Siugzeinis. Walsh would eventually come out the victor from Siugzeinis, Buckley, Oliver Kelly, Chris Calnan and Conor Tobin completing the Top 6.
The Boom Booms stole the show with a mixture of style and consistency as the small field dealt with the tricky conditions in front of them. Nathan Walsh was the sole competitor on the bigger machinery and was able to put some distance between himself and the less powerful machinery. Over the 2 races it became a dingdong battle for top spot between Ella Mosgrove and Cathal Casey with the Finnerty siblings Ben and Isaac keeping a close eye on the leading duo in their respective races. Emma Kelly and her dad Oliver shared machinery so the No. 38 machine was kept busy all day across all the classes. Ella would come away with 2 x P1s, Cathal with a brace of P2s and Emma Kelly and Isaac Finnerty would take 3rd place position each.
The Vets saw another mix of experience across, shall we say, the more senior field! With a bumper entry 14 bikes lined up on the start line the jostling for position was the talking point and as result after the flag was dropped in Race 2 we had a coming together of bikes 519, 90 and 38. Fortunately all riders we're back up on their feet after a stoppage to get everyone checked over. As a result, Brian, Simon and Oliver Kelly had to sit out the restart and the rerun was all but a 2 bike affair as Keelim Ryan took the fight to William Roberts this time. There was nothing to separate the senior men and on the 7th lap Roberts seized the opportunity to hit the front and held his nerve to take victory by 3 hundredths of a second from Keelim. Race 1 earlier in the day was saw the same couple battle it out with Keelim taking the spoils from Roberts on this occasion with Vincent Long 3rd and you could have thrown a blanket over Cian McSweeney, Brain Murphy, and Simon Callanan.
The Senior Open was the feature race of the meeting with only 6 entries it was going to be an ask for the likes of Reece Lennox and Barry Sheehan to compete with the likes of Quilter, Keyes, Haydn Walsh and Keelim Ryan all of whom had been putting solid laps underneath them in the other classes. However, it didn't take long for 1 young man to show his experience as Reece topped qualifying and got the hole-shot in the first race and kept his cool to take a comfortable victory on the No. 117 machine by 14s from Keelim, Jeff, Keyes, Haydn, and Sheehan. Lennox then continued his great from in Race 2 and was steady away with the chasing pack this time coming from Keelim, Kevin and Quilter. It was all going to plan for Reece having set the fastest lap of the day on his penultimate lap only for disaster to strike sliding off his Yamaha YZ after turn 2 and handing Keelim another victory to his tally followed closely by Kevin and Jeff. Haydn and Barry were 4th and 5th as proceedings were drawn to a close.
It was hoped to run another round of races but the enforced delay earlier in the day along with the unpredictability of the weather organisers thought it best to wrap things up and in typically Irish fashion as soon as the announcement was made the sun broke through the clouds! Presentations were made to the Class winners and that concluded the inaugural running of the WCMCC Pit Bike Challenge Race Day.
A special word of thanks to John Burke for his fantastic images used throughout this review.
Donal J. Arnold