Express & Star

Region's road racers debrief after another action-packed Cookstown 100

The Irish road racing scene beckoned once more for two of the region's riders who were back out racing with some of the best in the business.

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Andy Whale, from Cradley Heath, was returning to the Cookstown 100 for the second while Neil Lloyd, from Wednesbury, was making his debut.

Whale has already made his debuts at Oliver's Mount, in Scarborough, and Armoy, in Northern Ireland – and the 34-year-old has been well and truly bitten by the road racing bug.

And his progress and burgeoning talent really shone as he returned to Northern Ireland for the Cookstown 100 as he narrowly missed out on a podium.

"I have a few road races under my belt now but the Cookstown 100 was the first road race I returned to not as a newcomer," he said.

"Before I arrived, I decided it was time to put my cards on the table and see what was possible."

Qualifying went well on his Triumph 675 in the senior support class which, due to the number of entries, had been split into an A and B race.

Whale was fast enough to qualify for the A race, 14th on the grid, but after being red-flagged three times he finished the race where he started.

He then switched to his Kawasaki ZXR400 for the junior support race and the lightweight races, he qualified third and fourth respectively.

"I was now feeling a bit of pressure as I would be making a front row start at a national road race – and having a camera shoved in my face on the start line is not something I am used to," said Whale.

"I got off to a bad start in the junior support and dropped back to seventh by the first corner.

"I pushed hard and was back to fourth by the end of the first lap when the race was red flagged, so we lined back up for a restart.

"I had a good start this time and after some close racing with other riders I finished the race third on the road and I was thrilled.

"However, a couple on riders in the second wave had beaten me on corrected time, meaning I actually finished the race in sixth.

"I was gutted as I thought I was going to be adding to my silverware collection."

The pace was fast in the lightweight race and, with no red flags, Whale was able to get into a rhythm.

After knocking another second off his fastest lap time, he finished the race fifth.

"I was happy with that considering the talent on the grid and overall I really enjoyed the event, I gave it my all and realised my true potential," said Whale.

"I would like to say a special thanks to Kimberley Aitchison for getting up early to help me push the bikes through scrutineering for two days on the trot."

Whale is now turning his attention to the Darley Moor Club Racing championship where he still has a great chance of lifting the lightweight class championship.

"The season is nearly over now but I'll be returning to Darley one more time," he said.

"Despite missing the last round due to being at Cookstown, I still have a two-point lead in the championship, so it's still all to play for and anything can happen."

For Lloyd, Cookstown was a bittersweet affair as he was running comfortably in the top 10 before his bike packed up, which ended his meeting prematurely.

"I've had mixed feelings about this road circuit because at the start I struggled with it at first but the more laps I did the more confident I was getting," he said.

"Again, we had to race in the 1000cc classic class because our bike has a four-cylinder engine.

"I made a few adjustments for race day and starting from 13th on the grid, in the second wave of riders, I got a good start and was running 11th overall.

"Lap times started to come down during the race too, and started to enjoy racing there, but when we got to lap seven the bike just cut out on the start-finish straight, which left me stranded till the end of the meeting.

"Early indications point at a faulty coil in the first and fourth cylinders – and we were gutted to come all this way for DNF, but that’s racing I suppose.

"However, it was another new experience and I’d like to thank my wife, Sam, as usual and our sponsors Joy Ellis and Loz Griffiths. Their support is greatly appreciated."

Lloyd now heads to Cadwell Park, in Lincolnshire, this weekend to compete in the Japanese Classic 500cc Championship with the British Historic Racing Club.

He said: "I’ve had to change all the ignition and wiring loom since Cookstown because it was close to catching fire.

"A big thanks to Loz Griffiths for covering the costs for new electrics."

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