While we wait for the start of 2019 season, we look back to 2018 - what a year it has been for road racing!
Lap records, intriguing battles with veterans and young guns sharing the same tracks, a lot of highs but unfortunately, a few downs too.
Trying to think about a classification of the best road race of 2018 is not easy - but here is our top three in term of spectacularity and thrill.
On the third step of the podium we nominate the Killalane Supersport Race. A small National Road Race held a few miles north of Dublin, Ireland. The event shares the paddock and the start/finish line with the Skerries 100 and it is one of the narrowest tracks in the calendar.
Killalane, now called East Coast Racing Festival, hosted the final round of the Irish Road Racing season in September, with some titles still to assign.
Surprisingly, “the Mullingar missile” Derek McGee was on the grid with his ZX-6R just one month after a bad crash at the Ulster GP left him with broken bones. “Hard as nails” they say, and this would appear to be accurate.
McGee took part just in the Supersport and Moto3 races to try and grab the titles, to add them to the Supertwin and Superbike ones which were already under his belt.
He did it. After an amazing battle and uncountable overtakings with long time rival Derek Sheils, McGee crossed the line with just 0.1 second over Sheils, not only winning the championship but also his 15th National road race in a row.
Second place in our top three of the most amazing road races of the year goes to the Supertwin Race 2 at the North West 200.
The entry-list of the class was full of potential winners - Martin Jessopp starting from the pole, 54 year old Jeremy McWilliams on the immaculate KMR ER6 and “Young Guns” James Cowton, Adam McLean and Joey Thompson right in the mix.
At the start, Cowton onboard the McAdoo Racing Kawasaki took the leade just until the long and fast straight which leads to University Corner. At which point (and on every lap thereafter) the green Paton easily overtook all other bikes, showing an undisputed engine supremacy. Paton rider Joey Thompson did struggle on the more technical sectors however, eventually being passed again every time by the whole group. The race eventually lost Jessopp and McLean fwith technical problems and resulted in a hard elbow to elbow fight between “Jezza” McWilliams and James Cowton, Thompson continuing to pass them both on the straights on the super fast Paton.
The last lap showed that very same scene, with Thompson taking the lead again - but this time maintained it until after Metropole. Cowton, however, had something very clear in his mind and he put in place one of the most stunning overtakes ever seen on the “Triangle Circuit” at Juniper’s Chicane, to win this amazing Supertwin Race. Totally surprised by the strong move, Thompson was forced to slow on his Paton which ultimately cost him second place too, which went to Jeremy McWilliams. What a race!
The crown for the best race of the season has to go to the Senior TT at the Isle of Man.
A clash of the titans between Peter Hickman and Dean Harrison, and of course the battle against the clock.
After a week of practice at record speed and a race week where both the Smiths Racing BMW rider and the Silicone Engineering Kawasaki rider showed impressive form winning one each, the victory of the Senior TT was always going to be the icing on the cake.
The race started with Harrison leading by a good margin over Hickman, also setting a stunning lap of 133.7mph from standing start. At the start of the third lap Harrison brought the gap to 8 seconds, but BMW mounted Hickman managed to cut it down setting also a new fastest lap at 134.456mph. A perfect second pit stop by Silicone Team left Hickman still with 6 seconds to claw back - the battle was all between them, with Manxman Conor Cummins in third after over a minute!
The sixth and last lap showed something unbelievable: Hickman literally “bit the screen”, and despite being slowed down by a few backmarkers, managed to reduce the gap in every sector.
At Ramsey, Harrison was leading by just 2 seconds but by the railway tracks of Bungalow, it was Hickman who lead the race by 0.8!
Harrison crossed the finish line first, holding his breath waiting for Hickman… And he did it! Peter Hickman won his first Senior TT at only his 5th year on the Mountain Course, setting also the new incredible TT outright lap record at 135.452mph (16’42’’778). In doing so he became the fastest road racer in the world.
What can 2019 bring…?