ULSTER GP: Dan Kneen eager to make up for lost time

Dan Kneen made his comeback from injury on the Mar-Train Yamaha machines at the Southern 100.
Dan Kneen made his comeback from injury on the Mar-Train Yamaha machines at the Southern 100.

Manxman Dan Kneen has described his injury-blighted season as akin to a ‘bad dream’ after he was ruled out of the North West 200 and Isle of Man TT with a broken arm.

The Braddan rider had joined Ulster’s Mar-Train Racing team to ride a full stable of Yamaha machinery this year and had been in impressive form prior to a freak accident on his mountain bike, which occurred only days before the first major international road race of 2016 at the North West.

Kneen had gelled well with the Yamaha YZF-R1 Superbike and won the feature race at the Tandragee 100 in April as part of his preparations until disaster struck for the 29-year-old, whose injuries left the Saintfield-based team with no option other than to reluctantly withdraw from the TT.

Racing veteran Jeremy McWilliams was called into the team as a late replacement for Kneen at the North West 200 and performed admirably, yet the proximity of the TT and a lack of suitable riders meant team owner Tim Martin had to make the difficult decision to pull out of the most important meeting on the calendar.

Kneen, though, has now recovered and following a test at Kirkistown, he was back in action last week at the Steam Packet Southern 100 on home soil at Billown, where he twice finished on the rostrum in the Corlett’s Trophies 600/1000cc and Ellan Vannin Fuels Senior races, taking third and second places respectively behind Michael Dunlop.

He also finished a narrow fourth in the blue riband Manx Gas Solo Championship race last Thursday, missing out on the podium by only four thousandths of a second after a battle to the wire with Ivan Lintin for third place.

It was a pleasing comeback for Kneen, who will now contest the SGS International Armoy Road Races at the end of this month before staking his claim for honours at the MCE Insurance Ulster Grand Prix, where he won his maiden international race in the Superstock class at Dundrod following a titanic scrap with Dean Harrison in 2014.

Kneen said: “Breaking one arm and badly hurting the other one was a massive blow – it was like a bad dream to be honest. It’s been really tough just sitting on the sidelines and missing out on so much action, especially since things were going so well with the bikes and the new team.

“As a Manxman, the TT was particularly hard to miss, but the arm is healed now. I’ve had a good run out at the Southern 100: I was very happy with my third place finish and now I can’t wait to get back to the Ulster,” he added.

“I’m loving being with the Mar-Train guys and both bikes are going great. I used the opportunity of being over at the Ulster launch to get some time on the bikes ahead of both the Southern 100 and Dundrod and that went well, my aim has been to get back to speed as quickly as possible.

“A win at the Ulster would really be amazing and I’d like to be able to do it for the team after spending too much of the season on the sidelines. I’m going out there for a strong finish.”

Kneen, who signed for Mar-Train Racing last November following Bradford rider Harrison’s departure, attended a media call to announce a new sponsorship deal with Whitemountain Centra Service Station – backers of the opening Supersport event at the ‘World’s Fastest Road Race’.

The business’s owner, Sam Finlay, is well known in racing circles and previously ran his own roads team, supporting riders including Adrian Archibald, Conor Cummins and Paul Hunt.

The MCE Insurance Ulster Grand Prix takes place from August 10-13.