It's not often a 10 times TT winner and one of road racing's biggest and well known names dons a newcomer's race vest, but this was the case when Ian Lougher made his first appearance at the Armoy Road Races at the weekend, where he was joined in the newcomer ranks by Team ILR's young rising star Joey Thompson who has been guided and mentored by Lougher this season.
The weather on Friday was far from ideal for practice and qualifying with rain showers producing some challenging circuit conditions. First up was 125GP/Moto 3 qualifying which ran in damp conditions, with the Team ILR duo of Thompson and Lougher finishing 4th and 8th respectively.
Joey then went on to take part in Supersport and Superbike qualifying on the team's ZX-6 Kawasaki, giving a good account of himself with Top 10 placings in both.
Friday evening's first Supersport encounter saw Thompson determinedly fight his way through to sixth when the race was stopped due to an oil slick on the circuit, a result was then declared before racing for the evening was cancelled.
If Friday's conditions were challenging then Saturday was equally so with further rain showers and oil spillages during the day.
First race for the team was the 125GP/Moto 3. Both Ian and Joey were running in the Top 6 in the early laps and as the race entered the closing stages Thompson went third only to disappointingly crash the 125 Honda at Church Bends thankfully without injury.
With one eye very much on the fast approaching Classic TT, Lougher meanwhile was using all his experience and riding steadily in the tricky conditions and was having a great dice with Derek McGee until the latter retired the Joey's Bar MCC 125 Honda on the penultimate lap to leave Ian in an excellent fourth place at the flag, just over 1.5 seconds clear of fifth placed Gary Dunlop.
With his racing over for the day, Ian was then able to commit fully to overseeing Joey's racing and the young Yorkshire rider continued to impress on the unfamiliar circuit with sixth place in the second Supersport race, where he rode brilliantly to fend off a determined challenge from Christian Elkin.
He then had another great result in the Superbike race before rounding off his day with an excellent 6th place finish on his 600 in the Race of Legends Grand Final where he had a terrific battle with Davey Todd and Paul Jordan.
Armoy saw another brilliant debut for Joey Thompson whose season on the roads continues to go from strength to strength as he now looks to his Dundrod debut at the Ulster Grand Prix next week.
Before then, it's a return to the premier domestic short circuit scene for the team this weekend as the BSB Championship rolls into Thruxton in Hampshire.
Team ILR owner/manager Ian Lougher:
"I only decided last week to compete at the Armoy Road Races, I have been asked many times by the organisers but in recent years it was not possible due to our BSB team commitments.
The main change of plan this time was in order to be able to help Joey out to the max with his settings on the bikes, and I thought I should experience the circuit first hand in order to do that.
Well it worked out spot on with Joey going on to score a 6th place finish and first 600 home in the main race.
Not to mention three other results in the top six.
It was a shame he slipped off Adrian Nettleship's 125 whilst challenging for 2nd position as he deserved at least one rostrum. He was fine and knows his mistake and is a very fast learner, so no problems.
As for myself, I enjoyed my "wobble" around on our little Team ILR Moto 3 Honda very much.
I've missed the competitiveness of racing of late and have felt a bit rusty when I do get to ride, but this has revitalized me ready for the forthcoming Classic TT where I'll be MV500 and 250 Yamaha mounted."
"Up and Down weekend at the Armoy Road Races, weather changing every second and we managed to get some good results and show our potential on a track that we didn't know, I had my first real road racing crash at Church Bends on the 125 and crashed out of 3rd place, and then we had 4x Top 6 finishes in the 600cc Supersport and Race of Legends.
Thanks to everyone for making this possible, my great team Ian, Asa and Jacko, dad and Adrian for working so hard in the horrible conditions and putting 2 great bikes out there! Thanks to all my sponsors and supporters for the help, another thank you to Donald and family for the accommodation and last of all thanks to all the marshals and fans for sitting out in the rain so we can go racing!"