Spring Cup takes centre stage for first road race of year

The opening road race of the year takes place this weekend with the Spring Cup meeting in Scarborough, which returns to the calendar for the first time since 2017.

Saturday, 22nd May 2021, 6:00 am

Traditionally the first event held each year at the 2.43-mile Oliver’s Mount course in North Yorkshire, the race did not take place in 2018 when England’s only road racing venue fell silent following safety concerns in the wake of the abandoned Gold Cup meeting in September 2017.

Spectators were injured in two separate incidents at the showpiece race four years ago and as a result, the Auto Cycle Union (ACU) refused to grant a Race Licence to the previous organisers – the Auto 66 Club – to host the Spring Cup and Cock ’o the North meetings in 2018.

However, racing resumed at Oliver’s Mount in 2019 – albeit with the Superbike class replaced by Classic Superbikes – organised by the Two Four Three Racing Association.

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Lee Johnston at Oliver's Mount on his Ashcourt Racing Yamaha.

The coronavirus pandemic resulted in the cancellation of the Spring Cup last year, although the Barry Sheene Classic Festival and the Steve Henshaw Gold Cup races went ahead.

With the ongoing impact of Covid-19 restrictions continuing this year, the Spring Cup was postponed by a few weeks from May 8-9 to this weekend in order to allow spectators back through the gates.

A bumper entry has been secured and a host of riders from Northern Ireland have made the trip across the Irish Sea to take advantage of the opportunity for a road racing fix, with limited opportunities at home.

Every Irish national meeting has been cancelled this year except Armoy in July and the rescheduled Cookstown 100 in September, with the North West 200, Isle of Man TT, Southern 100 and Classic TT/Manx Grand Prix all called off because of the coronavirus situation.

As such, there is a great sense of anticipation around the Spring Cup meeting, where Isle of Man TT winners Dean Harrison and Lee Johnston top the bill.

Northern Ireland rider Johnston, who broke his duck at the TT in 2019 with a victory in the Supersport class, has won the Gold Cup in back-to-back years at the ‘Mount’ and will be gunning for more glory on his Ashcourt Racing Yamaha.

He was pushed all the way last September by Senior TT winner Harrison and the pair are likely to take all the beating once again.

Their opposition includes Davey Todd, who will be eager to make an impression at his home event, where he has only previously raced once before in 2017.

Todd, arguably road racing’s hottest prospect, will line-up on the Wilson Craig Honda, which he tested for the first time last Monday at Kirkistown in Co Down.

The Burrows Engineering/RK Racing team has also made the trip to Scarborough with Paul Jordan and Mike Browne, who joined the Dungannon-based outfit in a new-look line-up last year, replacing Derek Sheils and Tom Weeden.

Team boss John Burrows opted to stick with both riders for 2021 after last year’s decimated calendar limited his new signings to a solitary outing at the Cookstown 100.

With few road races taking place again this year, Burrows has pencilled in the Scarborough events, plus the Dunlop Masters Superbike and Ulster Superbike short circuit rounds to keep his team ticking over.

“We’re a road race team and we’re not really a short circuit team – it’s not something we have really looked at over the past number of years,” said Burrows.

“But this year we’re going to do the Dunlop Masters at Mondello Park and whatever Ulster rounds there are at Kirkistown and Bishopscourt.

“Also, for the first time in a while, we’re going to go and race over at Scarborough and it looks like Armoy will go ahead at the end of July and then we’ll have the Cookstown 100 in September.

“Taking all that into consideration, it gives us the basis of a season and it should keep us busy enough if the races go ahead as planned,” he added.

“I’ve a commitment this year to Paul Jordan and Mike Browne because last year was basically wiped out and I said we’d go ahead and keep things as they were for 2021.

“We don’t have a road race championship to fight for or a North West or a TT, which are usually the big goals for the team each year, but I can’t really leave those two lads out in the cold and once I give a commitment, then I follow it through.”

The Spring Cup entry also includes McAdoo Racing’s Adam McLean and newcomer Darryl Tweed; leading English rider Jamie Coward; veteran Ian Lougher and up and coming talent Jim Hind; Irish roads regular Neil Kernohan and Rob Hodson.

Practice and qualifying gets under way today followed by the first races, with the Bob Smith Spring Cup feature race taking place during a packed schedule tomorrow.

Oliver’s Mount is also set to host the Barry Sheene Classic meeting from June 26-27, the inaugural Oliver’s Mount Festival from July 31- August 1 and the Steve Henshaw Gold Cup (September 11-12).

Tickets can be purchased via the Duke Video website at www.dukevideo.com