DEREK SHEILS CLAIMS FOURTH PLACE AT INTERNATIONAL NORTH WEST 200
BURROWS ENGINEERING/ RK RACING RACE REPORT
Derek Sheils clinched an excellent fourth place in the Superbike race at the 90th anniversary North West 200 as new Burrows Engineering/RK Racing signing Tom Weeden earned a best result of eighth in the Supersport race on Saturday.
In difficult conditions on wet roads, Sheils produced a fantastic ride on the Suzuki GSX-R1000 during the reduced four-lap race, finishing ten seconds ahead of 24-time winner Alastair Seeley, who was riding the factory PBM Be Wiser Ducati. The Dublin rider was nine seconds back on Conor Cummins, who took third behind race winner Glenn Irwin and his Kawasaki team-mate, James Hillier.
Derek felt confident of challenging for the podium in the Superstock race and he moved into second place one stage on the opening laps, but unfortunately, he was forced to retire with an engine issue. He did register a solid top ten finish in Thursday’s Superstock race, held in glorious sunny weather on the North Coast, coming home in ninth position.
Kent rider Weeden made good progress after competing at the first two Irish National road races of the season as a newcomer. Tom started off with a top 20 finish in the first Supersport race on Thursday, taking the flag in 18th place on the Burrows Engineering/RK Racing Yamaha R6. He then claimed a magnificent eighth place in Saturday’s wet Supersport race and followed this result up with an equally impressive 10th place finish in the Superbike race on the Suzuki GSX-R1000.
Under trying circumstances, it was a successful start to the main international road racing season for the Northern Ireland team and everyone at Burrows Engineering/RK Racing is now looking forward to the Isle of Man TT, where practice commences on Saturday, May 25.
Team Principal – John Burrows:
“Derek rode a great race to get fourth in the Superbike race. There might have been a few of the top names missing, but most of them were in there and Derek showed that can run in that kind of company, as we know he can. It follows on from the sixth place he had in the first Superbike race the last time he rode at the North West in 2017. He also had a strong ride to ninth in the dry Superstock race on the Thursday, but unfortunately, we had an engine issue in Saturday’s race. It was disappointing because Derek was as high as second place and felt confident he could go for the podium.
“But I’m very proud of Derek because he beat Alastair Seeley on the factory Ducati in the Superbike race and it was fantastic for him and the team that he was so high up. We made some good steps forward with the Suzuki GSX-R1000 because we had been struggling quite a bit for top-end speed. It’s not that we don’t have the speed, but we had an issue with the electronics that was preventing us from getting the maximum potential out of the bike. We’ve got to the bottom of that now, which will stand us in good stead as we prepare for the TT.
“I was happy with how Tom performed and it showed that he was riding at a track that he knew and felt more comfortable on. He had an eighth in the Supersport race and 10th place in the Superbike race, although unfortunately, he had an issue in the Superstock race on Saturday. His confidence is fairly high at the moment and he is looking forward to the TT, which is really the event that our team has been built around this year.
“Derek feels he has unfinished business on the Isle of Man and we want to be a part of what we know he can achieve at the TT, whilst Tom made his name on the island when he won the Senior Manx Grand Prix. We will make it our priority to get both riders as close to the front as we can and hopefully we can have a strong race week.”
“The weather was really poor on Saturday and the final Superbike race was called off, but I’d have been happy to go out in it because I felt we could give it a really good go. I’m not sure what happened but maybe some of the other lads weren’t feeling it and Mervyn Whyte decided to call it a day. I suppose he has to err on the side of caution a bit but it was frustrating for me because I felt good.
“The Suzuki worked well in the wet conditions and it was giving me some good feedback. In the Superbike race, I was able to ride it a bit harder over the Coast Road than the other lads and it felt good. We’ve had an issue with top-end speed and we made a breakthrough on Saturday morning, but by then it was too late to really do anything about it. The positive thing is that we know what we need to do for the TT and I’m really looking forward to seeing the full potential of the bike on the island.
“On Saturday top speed wasn’t as much as an issue with the conditions and I was able to get a decent fourth place in the Superbike race. We weren’t far away and I was really disappointed when we had an issue in the Superstock race because I definitely felt we could have pushed for the podium. That’s racing and all in all, I’m happy and it was good for John and for myself. We’ve got good information going to the TT now so it was a really useful North West 200 for the team.”
“On paper, my results looked really good and although quite a few people sat out the Supersport race on Saturday, you’ve got to be in it to win it. Conditions were difficult but we just rode a steady pace and managed to get some decent results on the board. It was the first time I rode the Yamaha R6 or the Suzuki GSX-R1000 in proper wet conditions, so we were learning on the job a bit. The team did an excellent job with the set-up and I felt comfortable.
“We got a lot of time on both bikes, which was really important. We’re thereabouts in terms of what we need, although we still have more work to do going to the Isle of Man TT. The North West gave us the chance to iron out a few issues, so that should stand us in good stead for the TT.
“It’s the main event for us and hopefully the weather will be favourable and we’ll get plenty of track time during practice week. I’ll get a run out on the 600 Yamaha on Saturday evening for the first few laps all being well. It’s what we’ve been building up to and hopefully we can get some decent results.”
Pictures: Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press.
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