Bolton Bullet Malachi Mitchell-Thomas will have a few of the sport’s established frontrunners throwing a wary glance in his direction at the KDM Hirestore Cookstown 100 at the end of this month.
Traditionally the season curtain raiser, the Co. Tyrone meeting is the third event on the calendar in 2016 and completes a busy month, with Tandragee next up on April 23 after the Mid Antrim 150 kick-started proceedings at Clough last weekend.
I just love riding bikes fast and I’m loving it at the moment - Malachi Mitchell-Thomas
Exciting prospect Mitchell-Thomas, who was snapped up by astute Cookstown B.E. Racing team owner John Burrows this year, made a stunning debut at the Mid Antrim, winning both Supersport races and the Open Superbike race to seal a hat-trick in his first ever Irish road race.
The 20-year-old beat experienced regulars including his team-mate, Derek Sheils, and Ireland’s most successful ever National road racer, Ryan Farquhar, who was having his first outing on his new IEG BMW Superstock machine.
Final details of the Cookstown 100 were announced on Thursday night at the official launch of the event in the Royal Hotel, when it was revealed that Aussie Cameron Donald could make an appearance at the Orritor course after re-joining Wilson Craig Racing for the Isle of Man TT this year, while William and Michael Dunlop are also provisional entries.
Along with Burrows’ riders Mitchell-Thomas and Sheils – who turned the tables on his young team-mate to win the feature Grand Final Superbike race at Clough – the list of confirmed starters includes Manx rider Dan Kneen on the Mar-Train Yamaha machines plus Derek McGee, Michael Sweeney, Rob Barber, Conor Behan, Davy Morgan, Paul Jordan, Nigel Moore and Gareth Keys.
Gary Dunlop, fifth on his Irish roads debut in the 125cc class at the Mid Antrim, will race at Cookstown for the first time on the Joey’s Bar Honda, while Czech racer Michal Dokoupil will ride the Wilson Craig Honda Superstock machine.
Alistair Kirk, runner-up in last year’s Irish Superbike Championship, and Welshman Rhys Hardisty are also notable newcomers this year.
Man of the moment Mitchell-Thomas, who will also make his full Isle of Man TT bow this year following his Senior Manx Grand Prix triumph in 2015, has been on a high since his treble heroics at Clough, but the Horwich man won’t allow himself to get too carried away.
“It was a great weekend for the team and we won four out of five races, so it was a fantastic start and now I’m really looking forward to the next races at Tandragee and Cookstown,” he said.
“I’ll put the work in and do some laps and get some markers to prepare and I’ll just ride how I can ride and hopefully that will be good enough again.
“I just love riding bikes fast and I’m loving it at the moment.”
Sheils, meanwhile, is a former winner at Cookstown in the Superbike class and will be gunning for the rostrum on the Burrows Suzuki GSX-R1000 Superbike.
The Dubliner will also have a rare outing in the Supertwins class.
“I’m really looking forward to riding the Supertwin and it’s a new challenge for me, so I’ll be out to give the team a good result at their home event.”
Roads close for practice on Friday, April 29 at 12 noon for practice and at 10am on Saturday, April 30.