Sunflower Trophy Races bring Courtney's season to a close.
Connall Courtney's 2016 season with Team ILR concluded on Saturday at Bishopscourt when, after a season spent in the BSB Motostar (Moto 3 Standard Class) Championship, the young rider from Warrenpoint competed on 'home' tarmac at the annual Sunflower Trophy races.
On the tuned NSF 250 Honda for the first time, Connall qualified in 5th place overall, thanks to two top five qualifying sessions, and thankfully as early rain gave way to dry, sunny conditions he took his place on the front row of the grid for the first of Saturday's two races over 8 laps.
Fourth at the end of the opening lap, Connall then dropped to fifth as Robert Kennedy got past, but with the retirement of Cahal Graham soon after, Courtney found himself back in fourth with Kennedy moving well clear in third.
Connall was able to bring the Honda home in a very safe fourth, 21.59 seconds ahead of the 2016 Irish Moto 3 (125 GP) Short Circuit Champion Luke Clements for a very good start to his day.
Race two over seven laps saw Courtney enjoy a good scrap with Cahal Graham, 5th and 4th in the 2016 Irish and Ulster Moto 3 (125 GP) Short Circuit Championships respectively, with Graham just getting the nod for fourth by half a second and Connall in turn well ahead of sixth place man Nigel Moore.
The 2016 Sunflower Trophy meeting also incorporated the Ronnie Donnan Memorial Parade Laps which saw Team ILR owner/manager Ian Lougher take part on John Chapman's 500MV Agusta.
"It's quite unusual to get such good weather at Bishopscourt in late October but we were blessed with quite a nice enjoyable weekend, and I'm glad to say Connall really enjoyed riding our tuned NSF250F.
With limited time to get used to the different engine and chassis spec'd machine he normally rides, Connall acclimatised himself well and got into a good pace fairly quickly and finished the day with some decent results on home turf."
"2016 is finished and it's certainly been a testing year.
We knew it would be a difficult year going into the season and it was, but at the same time it was a season that I could take a lot of positives out of.
I developed a lot through the year and got some really positive results.
It was hard having to start from scratch every weekend having to learn every new track I went to and we suffered a setback with a nasty injury in the mid-season but despite this, I felt real progression when I came back to tracks I had been to earlier in the year.
The Sunflower was a really strong end to the year.
The meeting had a very strong field and I was happy with how comfortable I felt on the new bike and I was able to find a comfortable rhythm and built from there.
To come away with a 4th and a 5th against some strong opposition having never ridden the bike before was really satisfying for me and it motivated me for 2017.
I want to say a massive thank-you to everyone in the team for helping me throughout the year. I learned a lot and can hopefully build on this progress next season."
BSB Championship season concludes at Brands Hatch
Team ILR's BSB Championship season came to a close at the weekend at Brands Hatch where Connall Courtney and Carl Phillips were joined in the team's awning by 16 year old Liam Delves who was having a try out on the tuned NSF 250 alongside Courtney in the Moto 3 British Motostar Championship races.
With Phillips still in the hunt for the Pirelli National Superstock 600 Championship, Delves hoping to impress and Courtney looking for a strong conclusion to his season, it promised to be a busy weekend for Team ILR owner/manager Ian Lougher and his team.
Free practice saw Delves using the session to get familiar with his new bike, meanwhile in the Superstock 600 class Phillips was immediately on the pace to finish third quickest. Qualifying 1 would see Delves and Courtney both improve their times, but it was Phillips who was making his intentions known as he topped the first Superstock 600 session from championship leader Jordan Weaving.
The second 600 session developed into a nail biting affair with both riders only opting to participate with ten minutes to go on a drying track.
It was Weaving who seemed to have the clearer run of the two and, with the clock ticking towards the end of the session, it looked as though he had grabbed the all important pole position.
However Phillips had finally got a clear run and he regained the initiative to clinch pole on his last lap.
The team worked hard on the Moto 3 Honda to make Delves as comfortable as possible on it before Saturday morning's second Moto 3 session, and this, combined with a track walk, paid off with the young Birmingham rider further improving by over a second. Courtney also improved on his time, over half a second, to ensure that both riders comfortably qualified for Saturday afternoon's first Motostar race which proved to be a race of two contrasts for both riders.
If Connall's race was straightforward (despite a pit-lane start), Liam's was anything but, and it wasn't long before he was in the thick of things with a large group of riders. In a scrap that went right to the flag it looked as though Delves had lost out as he slipped three places with a lap to go, but with great determination he battled back on the last lap to claim 16th for a fine first ride with Team ILR. Connall came home 13th in the Standard Class, and with both riders again bettering their times, it was a solid start to the weekend's race action.
Sunday race day dawned with heavy rain at the circuit and first in action was Phillips who had to win to give himself any chance of taking the Superstock 600 Championship. In a dramatic race, which was cut to six laps due to a red flag, it was Davey Todd and Lewis Rollo who battled for the lead throughout with Todd getting the verdict. Carl meanwhile rode a calm and measured race to claim the final podium spot in third, and with it second place in the championship to Weaving, whose seventh place was enough to take the title.
The second Moto 3 race was almost a repeat of the previous day's for both Team ILR riders with Courtney having a lonely race and Delves again involved in a race long dice in a large group of riders. At the end of an exciting race, Liam rode brilliantly to bring the team's Honda home to a season best 10th place in the tuned class, with Connall registering another 13th in the standard class.
Team ILR owner/manager Ian Lougher:
"Well that's the end of another racing year. Connall had to start from pit lane in race one and finished 13th on the Sunday.
Carl had a great ride in very difficult conditions to finish on the rostrum in 3rd place, but unfortunately with Jordan Weaving only needing to finish in the top 13 to clinch the 600 Superstock championship, it wasn't enough in the end.
Congratulations must go out to Jordan and his team for all their efforts during the season.
Liam Delves acquitted himself well on our team NSF250, gradually improving all the time, amassing a 16th place in the first race and a very spirited ride in race two to 10th, in which there were 8 riders battling the whole race. But when the flag went down Liam had fought his way to the head of the group...... impressive.
At times it's not so easy to make all the pieces of the jig saw to make a successful and happy race team fit together, but we strive to succeed.....always.
I personally would like to thank all our sponsors and team members for their help and support during 2016, and look forward to continuing next season."
"Team #32 arrived at the final BSB race of the season in determined mood and we certainly gave it our best shot, and everyone involved has put in a serious effort.
The lads have crossed the Irish Sea twelve times this year and drove thousands of miles in our transit van and little did we think at the start of the season we would be in a strong position to win a BSB title. It was a big ask in the final round, but I finished on the podium and gave it 110% to try for the Championship, but congratulations to Jordan and his team. Thank-you to all my sponsors, my team, Ian Lougher and Team ILR and to everyone who supported me.
"I had a two great races and finished 10th in the second one and I am happy with this result. I was improving with every session, and feel there is more to come on this bike. I would like to say a big thank-you to Ian Lougher for giving me the opportunity to ride for him at Brands Hatch and for taking time to work with me, coaching me, and also for a track walk the mechanics did with me. Also for making my parents feel very welcome, and our guests who came along to watch me race at Brands also said they had a great experience being a part of Team ILR. Hopefully we will work together again in the future, and I will stay in touch and always find time to say hello in the paddock."
"This year has been hard at times, particularly with my injuries in the latter half of the season, but I have really enjoyed myself with Team ILR and would like to thank Ian Lougher and everyone in the team for all their help and support. I have learned a lot, and can carry this forward into 2017. A big thank-you also to my family and sponsors for their support."