Malachi Mitchell-Thomas set Saturday’s JFM Haulage Mid Antrim 150 alight as the Clough meeting returned to the road racing calendar.
Not only did he win his first ever road race, but also scored a podium in every race he started. Five in total.
In Fridays Ballyprint Supersport 600 race, Mitchell-Thomas, from Chorley, out dragged Michael Sweeney off the line. Shortened to 4 laps due to the weather conditions, Sweeney never looked like he would be able to work with then young Englishman, who won by over 5 seconds.
Finishing in second place, Micko Sweeney, from Skerries, was having his first road race since his big crash at last years TT. Colin Stephenson finished in third place, chased hard by Galgorm man Neil Kernohan. Despite having a faster lap than Stephenson, the local man finished a couple of seconds back, in fourth position. Neils fastest lap was 91.732mph.
Saturday morning looked considerably better on the weather front, with the heavy rain having cleared and the track drying. Clerk of the Course Davy McCartney took the decision to send out the water tanker to try to wash some of the dirt off the circuit. I know some thought it was daft, but in the end it proved to be the correct decision. The tanker went out before and then after the first race, leaving the track in reasonable condition, considering.
Sponsored by Harleys Bar in Kilkeel, the Junior Support race was first in the revised race order. From the start Marc Ironside took the lead. He was chased by his Shirlaws Motorcycles team mate Kris Duncan, like Ironside, from Aberdeenshire, and Philip Crosbie. That was the way they stayed until the penultimate lap when Crosbie retired, gifting third place to Robert Cairns, who was well behind. Setting the fastest lap of the race, Ironside took the win by under a second. Cairns finished in third place.
There were two local riders in this race. Portglenone cousins Robert and Adrian Gordon finished in 14th and 15th places respectively, after a race long dice. With a fastest lap of 81.669mph, Rab was just .6 of a second ahead of Adi. His fastest lap was 81.631mph.
Pattons Bar and Restaurant backed the Junior Classic event. On a drying track, Glarryford man Barry Davidson blasted away from the start. He headed newcomer Jonny Doran, Allan Brew and Gary Hutton into the Victor Gilmore Corner. While Davidson put his head down and moved well away, Manx rider Brew moved to second and secured the place, ahead of slow starting Freddie Stewart. Emyvale man Stewart was promoted to second place when Brews throttle cable broke on the last lap as he headed towards O’Haras. That moved the leading 250, Phil Shaw, to third place on the road. Setting the fastest lap of the race at 80.866mph,
Next up was the Robert Logan Hardware Lightweight race. On the first lap it was Welsh rider Rhys Hardisty who was about a bike length ahead of Neil Kernohan. Able to use all his local knowledge the Galgorm man soon went ahead, opening up a gap and leaving Hardisty under pressure from Paul Robinson. With the race leaders having completed 3 laps, the red flags went out when Brian Loughlins Kawasaki blew up. He left a trail of oil on the circuit, and the CoC wisely decided to stop the race to allow marshals to clear it up.
That gave Kernohan a race win, 3.688 seconds ahead of Robinson, who had moved ahead of Hardisty on the final completed lap. With a fastest lap of 93.889mph, the fastest of the race, Neil Kernohan was our best local rider. The only other was Crumlin’s Bryan Harding who finished in 5th. He had a quickest lap of 84.355mph.
Run concurrently with the 250’s, the Lightweight 400/450 was always going to be Ryan Farquhar’s. The Dungannon man showed he still had what it takes to claim a victory, being something like 3 seconds per lap faster than anybody else in the race. When the red flags went out Farquhar was over 9 seconds ahead of Micko Sweeney. He, in turn, was well ahead of Ederney man Paul Gartland.
Adi Gordon was the only local rider in this race. Adi finished in fourth position, with a quickest lap of 83.553mph. Not too shabby for a man in his newcomer’s vest. With just half the scheduled laps completed, half points were awarded for this race.
Wilsons of Rathkenny sponsored the Senior Support class and again it was Shirlaws Motorcycles backed Kris Duncan who ran out the winner. He had to come from behind though, as the early leader was Allan Brodie. Once Duncan went ahead there was never any real doubt who was going to win, but Brodie never relented, finishing only 2 seconds back. Yet another Scottish rider, Sean Seddon finished in third place. Formerly from York, Sarah Boyes is now living in Ballymena. She took 18th place lapping at 81.685mph.
There was a 1-2 for John Burrows’ Cookstown BE team in the Gregg Transport Superbike event. Malachi Mitchell-Thomas led from the start, but outbraked himself into Corby Corner on the first lap. That dropped him to third, behind Ryan Farquhar and Derek Sheils. As the race progressed Mitchell-Thomas fought back, taking over at the front and bringing Derek Sheils with him, pulling away from Farquhar, whos BMW wasn’t performing the way it should have been. In the closing stages of the race Micko Sweeney slipped into third place, although he was well behind the leaders. Here again, Neil Kernohan was our only local rider, finishing in 7th place. His quickest lap was 100.101mph.
The Moto3 and 2 stroke championship race was sponsored by Mark McNeilly, of Spares & Repairs Quarry Plant Ltd. Rhys Hardisty, on his 250 Yamaha led the early part of the race, chased by a gaggle of 125Gp riders. Adam Mclean led Sam Dunlop and Neil Kernohan. Neil pulled in after a lap, having made the wrong choice in gearing. Paul Jordan soon moved through to take the lead in the GP125 race, pipping Adam Mclean by under a second at the finish. Nigel Moore just couldn’t match the pace of the top two, and he finished in third position, 13 seconds adrift. Sarah Boyes was our only local rider here. She took 7th place, lapping at 79.507mph.
Run along with the 125s, the 250GP class went to Rhys Hardisty, who finished 1.2 seconds in front of Paul Robinson. Crumlins Bryan Harding was third with a lap of 88.358mph.
Paul Hill, of Hill Contracts backed the Supersport 600 race, and it was another high speed lesson to everyone else by 20 year old Malachi Mitchell-Thomas. With his trademark lightening start, the youngster took off from the line and although Michael Sweeney pushed him hard all the way, there was never any doubt who would win. Mitchell-Thomas looked steady, polished and seriously fast as he held off the Skerries man to win by 2.4 seconds. Magherafelt rider Paul Jordan headed home a very entertaining four rider dice, with some 3 seconds separating him, Wayne Kirwan, Colin Stephenson and Indi.
Far from off the pace, Neil Kernohan was our best local man. He took 8th place with a fastest lap of 100.946mph.
The rain, which had been threatening for a while, started to fall heavier and the Diamond Trucks Senior Classic and Forgotten Era race was started in damp and slippery conditions. For the first couple of laps, Eddie Manly from Ashbourne held a lead, but Allan Brew from Ramsey in the Isle of Man was never far away. Manly retired on the third lap, leaving Brew to take a comfortable win, 8.2 seconds ahead of Glengormley man Gary Jamison. He moved up and passed Freddie Stewart in the early part of the race, but was never able to get on terms with the Manx rider.
Clough Glasgow Rangers Supporters Club are longtime backers of the Mid Antrim. This year they threw their weight behind the Supertwins race. It was probably one of the best races of the day, on what by now had become a treacherous surface. Malachi Mitchell-Thomas took an early lead, but was chased by Ryan Farquhar, Indi and Micko Sweeney. All of these riders had a spell at the front, before Mitchell-Thomas seemed to have settled at the front. Ryan Farquhar had other ideas, and on the final lap forced his way into the lead, winning by .07 of a second. Mitchell Thomas was runner up with Sweeney having edged away from Indi on the last lap. This compounds Farquhars career wins. He has 29 on the Clough circuit and 208 in his career.
The Grand Final was supposed to be the best race of the day, but sadly, the weather put an end to that. Sponsored by JFM Building Services the race was good enough, but only ten riders started and one retired. Derek Sheils and Malachi Mitchell-Thomas had a great dice until Sheils got ahead in the final couple of laps. He got his head down, moving away to win by 4.7 seconds. Mitchell-Thomas was the runner up, a little over a second ahead of Michael Sweeney. Again Neil Kernohan was our only local man, taking 6th place. He had a fastest lap of 96.062mph.
To say new Clerk of the Course Davy McCartney coped well doesn’t even start to do him justice on a day when everything that could go wrong weather wise, did go wrong, yet the meeting still proved a massive success. I’m looking forward to next year already.