MICHAEL Dunlop rewarded thousands of rain-soaked fans who braved the elements at Armoy on Saturday with an exceptional treble on home soil.
Dunlop was the central figure at the RiverRidge Recycling ‘Race of Legends’ as he followed up his show-stealing performance from 2011 with another hat-trick in the feature Supersport, Superbike and Grand Final races.
“It was another good day and it’s nice to keep on winning on the big bike,” Dunlop told News Letter Sport.
“The conditions were horrendous in the Supersport race but we got the win and I had a bit more than the other lads in the big races.
“I could see by the way that Ryan [Farquhar] and Guy [Martin] were riding that they were determined to beat me, but I just got my head down and was able to pull away from them.
“I didn’t expect to get the lap record in the big race because I was riding in a bit of pain with my back, but it sets us up nicely now for the Ulster Grand Prix.”
Dunlop edged victory in the Supersport class on his 600cc Ard Na Mara/McAdoo Suzuki by two tenths of a second from old nemesis Ryan Farquhar.
The result was taken based on positions at the end of the fourth lap after the race was red-flagged due to the atrocious weather conditions.
Heavy rain battered the three-mile Armoy circuit and as conditions deteriorated, the red flags were deployed with Dunlop in the lead from Farquhar and brother William, who had just set the fastest lap of the race on Wilson Craig’s Honda at 97.724mph.
A relentless downpour led to doubts over whether the event would continue but fans were rewarded for their perseverance as they saw home hero Dunlop uphold the memory of the legendary Armoy Armada with a Superbike double on his Hunts Motorcycles/McAdoo Honda Fireblade later in the afternoon.
The Ballymoney lad was forced to ride through the pain barrier with two slipped discs in his back after suffering the setback while preparing his machines prior to Saturday’s races.
Dunlop had four seconds in hand over Tyco Suzuki’s Guy Martin after six laps on wet roads as he claimed his second victory of the day in the SGS International Superbike race, with early leader Farquhar taking third on his 600cc KMR Kawasaki a further five seconds adrift and William Dunlop – also riding his 600cc machine – finishing fourth.
Manx rider Conor Cummins, making his debut at Armoy as he prepares for next week’s McKinstry Skip Hire Ulster Grand Prix at Dundrod, was fifth, with the top six completed by Brian McCormack on the CD Racing Honda.
The big race of the day, the RiverRidge Recycling Grand Final, was held on a dry track and Dunlop proved without doubt once more that he is very much lord of the manor at Armoy as scorched to a record-breaking triumph.
Farquhar made his customary flying start but Dunlop streaked into the lead on his CBR1000RR Honda on the second lap and eventually opened a gap over Farquhar before smashing the outright lap record on his eighth and final lap with a speed of 105.893mph.
Dunlop crossed the line with 4.3 seconds in hand over Farquhar, with Martin third – almost 14 seconds behind the winner – and his Tyco Suzuki team-mate Cummins fourth.
Adrian Archibald (AMA Kawasaki) and Derek Sheils (Amigos Honda) rounded out the top six.
Farquhar won the Supertwin 650 race by a commanding 24 seconds from Adrian Archibald.
The win was made easier after his KMR Kawasaki team-mate, Jamie Hamilton, crashed out while chasing the Dungannon rider at Church Bends on the fourth lap.
The Ballyclare prospect, a winner in the Supertwin class at the Southern 100 on the Isle of Man earlier this month, escaped serious injury and had the consolation of setting a new lap record at 96.367mph.
Irish rider Michael Sweeney took the final spot on the rostrum in third ahead of Kilrea’s William Davison, with Olie Linsdell and Craig Shirlaw next.
Cullybackey’s Sam Wilson dominated the 125cc race on the Logan Honda as he took the chequered flag by nine seconds over William Dunlop, who started from the second group, with Paul Robinson on the Stoneyford Aprilia finishing third.
Farquhar won the concurrently run Moto450 race, while the 250cc honours went to William Dunlop on brother Michael’s Honda by 10 seconds from Lee Vernon and Robinson.
Alan Kenny and Mark Shiels were the respective winners of the Senior and Junior Support races, with Freddie Stewart (Senior Classic) and Barry Davidson (Junior Classic) also among the winners on Saturday.
Don’t miss a full review of all the action from Armoy in Keep ’er Lit tomorrow.