Nico Mawhinney was glad he braved the elements on a bitterly cold day at Bishopscourt on Saturday, where the Castledawson rider won both Masters Superbike races on his Kawasaki.
As the organisers contended with heavy hail showers and rain, the opening Superbike race was put back until later in the day after two red flags with Ryan Rainey involved in a heavy crash on the IFS Yamaha, sustaining two dislocated shoulders and an injured left foot.
When the race was eventually held again, it was halted prematurely due to a heavy hail shower and a result was finally declared after three laps, with Mawhinney getting the nod to seal his maiden Masters success by only 0.099 seconds from Nikki Coates on the Kingsbury Packaging Kawasaki.
Third place went to Manxman Dan Kneen on the Mar-Train Yamaha, who was making his debut at the Co Down circuit for another run out on the R1 ahead of this weekend’s Around-A-Pound Tandragee 100.
Robert English (IFS Yamaha), Phillip McNally (Kawasaki) and Brian McCormack (TAG Honda) completed the top six.
The second race was held over the scheduled distance of eight laps but it wasn’t without drama either as the rain began to fall from around the midway point.
Mawhinney on the Team Polaris NEI Kawasaki was again on the front foot from the off and managed to open an advantage over Kneen, who came through for a fine second place, four seconds behind the Ulster rider at the finish.
Coates took third ahead of Mark Glasgow (Kawasaki), with English – a double winner at the opening rounds at Mondello Park – finishing fifth.
The top six was completed by Superbike Cup rider Charles Stuart (Suzuki).
Mawhinney, who missed the opening Masters event, has now moved into contention in the standings courtesy of his maximum points haul.
Coates was in the spotlight in the Supersport class, coming out on top of a thrilling opening race that saw a five-way scrap for the lead involving Jason Lynn, Kneen, Luke Johnston and Ross Patterson.
Lynn and Coates went bar to bar as the race progressed but a clash between the pair ruled Lynn out as Coates went on to take the chequered flag.
However, Coates’ delight was short-lived when he was disqualified from the results following the incident involving Lynn, gifting Patterson his maiden Masters win with Kneen elevated to second place and Johnston third. Championship leader Richie Ryan came home in fifth.
In race two, Coates and Lynn went at it again but Kneen, Ryan and Johnston were also in the thick of the action.
Series leader Ryan was on the charge but crashed out following a mistake, leaving a four-way battle for the lead.
The warring quartet of Coates, Lynn, Kneen and Johnston traded blows but it was Coates who made up for the disappointment of his earlier disqualification as he held off Lynn to win by 0.041 seconds in a photo finish with Kneen third.
Johnston, Supersport Cup leader Aaron Clifford and Aaron Armstrong were the first six.
The next Masters event runs at Mondello Park from May 7-8. The series also return to Bishopscourt on Saturday, August 20.