Dan Kneen has spoken of his shock at being left without a ride for 2017 following the unexpected decision by Mar-Train Racing to withdraw from the sport.
In an exclusive interview with the News Letter, Kneen revealed he had been so certain of continuing with the Ulster squad next season that he had turned down offers from other interested teams.
The 29-year-old has been plagued by bad luck in recent seasons and found himself in a similar position in 2015, when his deal with Ballymoney’s Millsport Racing team to ride Suzuki machinery fell through at the last moment.
On that occasion, he was thrown a lifeline by Clive Padgett to join Bruce Anstey in the famous Batley-based squad and Kneen is now hoping he can snag a late ride after being left out in the cold yet again.
“It’s come as a shock really and there’s nothing I can do about it now,” said the 2014 Irish roads Superbike champion.
“I’m not even sure what the reason is, why they have decided to stop. I haven’t even spoken to Tim [Martin] about it yet, although he texted me to let me know this morning.
“Something obviously made his mind up for him and if you don’t want to continue, then it’s the right decision because it is so much hard work.
“For me, I’ve no idea what I’m going to do now next year,” added a clearly stunned Kneen.
“I was told at the Ulster Grand Prix what the plans were for 2017 and Tim told me he wanted to continue with me. It was the same situation before we went to Macau – the response was still the same.
“I felt I didn’t have to worry about next year and I even turned down a few offers because I felt I was sorted, which makes things worse.”
With the New Year fast approaching, Kneen now faces a scramble to secure competitive machinery and he admits he will have to pick himself up and move on from the setback.
“I just don’t seem to have any luck at all but I’ve got to pick myself up and go and try and get something sorted for next year. It’s disappointing but there is nothing I can do about it now,” said Kneen, who finished third in the Superstock race at the Ulster Grand Prix in August - a race he won previously in 2014 for his maiden international success.
“No-one had really done anything on the R1 until I rode it and I obviously did a good job. We worked hard to improve the bike from the start of the year and I think we did that, plus I felt there was more to come from the bike, which is the frustrating thing about it.”
The News Letter understands that Fermanagh’s Lee Johnston also had recent talks with Mar-Train Racing as he weighs up his options for 2017.
Johnston’s former team East Coast Racing withdrew from the sport in September.