Big weekend for budding young racers as Irish Minibike Championship reaches conclusion at Nutts Corner

The Irish Minibike Championship reaches a conclusion this weekend at Nutts Corner with all nine classes remaining finely balanced going into the season finale at the Co Antrim circuit.

Saturday, 30th October 2021, 12:48 pm
Updated Saturday, 30th October 2021, 12:50 pm

Since its inception four years ago, the thriving series has provided aspiring young racers with the chance to hone their skills and gain invaluable racing experience, laying the foundations for the next step in their careers.

Many IMC competitors have made a successful transition to the Ulster Superbike and British championships, including Rossi Dobson, Ross Moore – this year’s USBK Moto3 champion – Rhys Coates and Alexander Rowan.

In the Ulster Superbike Championship, Jonny Campbell has made a big impression this year in his debut in the class, while IMC starlets Lee Hara, Ajay Carey, Jack Ferris and Nicolas Burns have been leading lights in the Moto One and SS300 classes in 2021.

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The final round of the Irish Minibike Championship takes place this weekend at Nutts Corner.

With an average of 115 competitors from across Northern Ireland and the Republic in action at each Irish Minibike round, there is no shortage of budding young riders hoping to follow in the wheel tracks of established stars such as Glenn and Andrew Irwin, Lee Johnston and newly crowned British Supersport champion Jack Kennedy, while Co Tyrone teenager Cameron Dawson – this year’s British Junior Supersport champion – is also an inspiration for the IMC racers with dreams of becoming a British champion themselves one day.

Of course, there is no bigger role model in Northern Ireland motorcycling than Jonathan Rea, who remains in with a chance of winning the World Superbike crown for the seventh successive year in November at the final round in Indonesia.

Rea sets the ultimate benchmark for the sport’s up and coming prospects and his stellar success is an immeasurable source of motivation for young sportspeople here.

Mark Boyd, a former short circuit racer and Chairman of the Irish Minibike Championship, said he is ‘proud’ of what the IMC has achieved so far.

“Happy riders are fast, confident riders and I believe that the IMC provides a conducive environment for our youth to thrive," he said.

“We are beginning to see our youth filter into bigger paddocks seamlessly, which is something to be proud of.

“I have two roles within the IMC paddock – the first is that of Chairman, the second is as a parent of two young cubs that love to race motorcycles.”

While the IMC also caters for older riders with a standard class for 140cc machines and an Open class, catering for two and four-stroke machinery up to a maximum of 190cc, the emphasis is very much on nurturing young talent.

The BamBam class is the entry level for Junior riders aged six to 10-years-old, with ascending categories for older children and teenagers progressing from automatic machines to gearbox bikes with more power.

The FIM Mini GP series has proved popular this year and ended with Brian Hamilton securing the title, while Lewis Mullen – the only Irish rider selected for the Michael Laverty Race Academy – was also a winner in the series this season.

Paul Robinson, who won the last-ever 125cc race at the North West 200 in 2010 and finished as the runner-up in the British championship in 2000, said his young son Max was reaping the rewards of competing in the series.

“I think the IMC is a great base for learning, Max and the other young riders have benefited so much from this wee club, like how to control a bike and also develop race craft and knowledge of riding safely with other riders nearby,” Robinson said.

“It also has a great progression from the BamBam class through the different levels to MiniGP, which is as close to a real race bike as you’ll get.”

Ex-road racer and team owner John Burrows, whose son Jack is a newcomer this year, added: “We have been around bikes for a long time but when we went to the first minibike meeting neither of us had ever been to watch one before, so it was all new to us.

“But we were welcomed with open arms and we’ve been fortunate enough to be at the sharp end of the pack which is great, but IMC has an ultra-competitive series.”

This weekend’s two-day finale on Saturday and Sunday at Nutts Corner is open to the public, with track and trace Covid-19 protocols in place. Admission is £5 for adults with children under 12 free.

The action is scheduled to commence at 10am on both days, with three races per class on Saturday and a new format of two longer races for each class on Sunday.