ROUND 2, DESERTMATIN, Co LONDONDERRY, APRIL 30th
Northern Ireland’s Mark McLernon gave the local fans plenty to cheer when he took overall victory in round two of the ACU British Quad Championship, sponsored by ATVS Only, at Desertmartin on Saturday, and in doing so moved joint top in the six round series.
A year on from the corresponding fixture last year, when McLernon pulled out mid-race saying he was not motivated and was ready to quit the sport, he put in one of the best rides of his career to win the first two races in style, finish second in the final outing and also set the fastest lap in all three.
The 21-year-old from Hillsborough, Co Down is now tied on 127 points with reigning champion Paul Holmes, who was the only man to beat McLernon on the day when he took victory in the final race when the superb ex-Grand Prix track was at its roughest.
“In the final race the rear shock started to boil,” said McLernon. “But to be honest I was just knackered!
Both men had been beaten in qualifying by Justin Reid, who had won at the track earlier in the year at an Ulster Championship round, but from lap one it was obvious McLernon had the best race pace as he led from lap one to the flag, eventually winning by over five seconds.
A fine three-way dice between Irishmen, Reid, Dean Colhoun and Leon Rodgers for the lower places was the real interest in the race, with Reid eventually getting the best of it, three seconds ahead of Colhoun. Rodgers though slipped to sixth when the exhaust header pipe broke with two laps to go.
Holmes ended the race fourth after finally shaking off the attentions of Carl Bunce, but Holmes was nearly 25 seconds behind the podium places.
In race two McLernon had to battle in the early stages with Colhoun, who is starting to get familiar with his new Dutch-built WSP Husky, but by one-third distance McLernon was in control and eventually stretched his lead of over seven seconds.
Their battle had pulled the pair well clear of the field, which was headed by a fierce battle between Holmes and Reid, which looked set to boil over at one stage before both men thought better of it! By the end Holmes was clear in third, with Reid an equally lonely fourth.
Carl Bunce just held on to fifth from a late-charging David Cowan, who had only managed 20th
in race one after a faulty plug cap left him stranded on the line. Rodgers was again out of luck after a loose coolant pipe forced him to pit for repairs while he was in the leading group.
In the final race things looked to be going to order, with McLernon again established at the front and holding a healthy lead at two-thirds distance. However, Holmes, who had modified his Yamaha’s rear suspension and linkage between races to adapt to the ever-roughing sand track, mounted a great charge to take the lead from the tiring McLernon with two laps to go.
Bunce, another relishing the rougher going after some suspension changes to prevent the rear shock bottoming out, had his best ride of the day in third, with Cowan in turn having his best ride in fourth.
Two fancied runners had days to forget. George Callaway, who came to the event in second in the championship, recorded one seventh place and slipped to eighth in the series. He DNF’d race one when a front spindle broke up, then on his way to seventh in race two he cracked the frame of his Yamaha and twisted his knee, ruling him out of the final heat.
Oli Sansom made the trip despite struggling with shoulder ligaments injured at Fat Cats three weeks ago but was forced to withdraw after heat one.
Two local Wildcard riders put in fine efforts – 18-year-old Blake McCormick from Co Down and 28-year-old Michael McAneney, from Co Derry. The youngster put in three impressively mature rides to end the day ninth overall and fourth in the Under 21s, while highly-rated Irish Championship rider McAneney opted to ride a 250-two stroke machine “for fun” and brought it home 12th
overall, despite a DNF in race three.
In the Willcock Holeformers Under 21 Championship Colhoun took overall victory and in doing so moved to within three points of series leader, Rodgers.
Colhoun won the opening two races after Rodgers hit bad luck in each, before Rodgers won the final heat and in doing so just managed to preserve his Championship lead.
The lone Scot in the Championship, Murray Graham finally kick started his season after he was dogged with bad luck in the opening rounds to secure third overall. Thirds in the opening two heats were his best results.
Third in the final heat went to Lithuanian, Domantas Vaznys, who bounced back unhurt from an enormous crash in the second heat.
Vaznys had been the first finishing Rookie in the first and third races, but the off in race two meant he finished in second overall in the Rookie Cup, behind Welshman Dafydd Davies who put in three consistent rides, despite injuring his groin when crashing twice in the opening race.
In the Vets Cup Reid won overall from Carl Bunce, with the evergreen 46-year old, Lindsey Duke, taking third spot.
Finally thanks should go to the Quad Racing Ireland club who ran a superb race meeting from beginning to end.
WORDS; Rob McDonnell PICTURES: Paul Ervine
Results: ATVS Only British Championship Overall:
1 Mark McLernon (Honda), 2 Paul Holmes (Yamaha), 3 Justin Reid (Can-Am KMX), 4 Dean Colhoun (WSP), 5 Carl Bunce (Suzuki), 6 David Cowan (Yamaha).
1 McLernon, 2 Reid, 3 Colhoun, 4 Holmes, 5 Bunce, 6 Rodgers (Kawasaki). Race two:
1 McLernon, 2 Colhoun, 3 Holmes, 4 Reid, 5 Bunce, 6 Cowan. Race three:
1 Holmes, 2 McLernon, 3 Bunce, 4 Cowan, 5 Reid, 6 Rodgers Points:
1 Holmes 127, 2 Holmes, 3 Bunce 98, 4 Reid 96, 5 Colhoun 92, 6 Rodgers 83. Willcock Holformers Under 21:
1 Colhoun, 2 Rodgers, 3 Murray Graham (Honda), 4 Blake McCormick (Yamaha), 5 Luke Cooper (KTM), 6 Domantas Vaznys. Points:
1 Rodgers 157, 2 Colhoun 154, 3 Vaznys 115, 4 Cooper 101, 5 Davies 93, 6 Bevan 90. Komfort Services Rookies Cup:
1 Dafydd Davies (KTM), 2 Vaznys, 3 Jamie Morgan (Honda) Komfort Services Vets Cup:
1 Reid, 2 Bunce, 3 Duke