Kennedy at the Double.
The annual Sunflower Trophy Races brought the 2018 season to a close for Team ILR and the team went out on a high with Robert Kennedyclaiming a brace of Supersport race wins with two superb performances.
Kennedy also took the Team ILR / Mark Coverdale Paton to two strong fifth place finishes in the Supertwins races to round out what was a very satisfying weekend for the Dundrod rider who has endured a frustrating second half of the season after being injured in a British Supersport Championship crash at Snetterton in June.
Another rider who has had an injury affected year is Connall Courtney, and the young Warrenpoint rider did well on his return after aggravating old wrist injuries at Oulton Park in 2017 which has resulted in very limited track time for the 20 year old.
The team arrived at the Bishopscourt circuit in Co. Down in determined mood and Robert immediately was on the pace in the Supersport class finishing second in both qualifying sessions to start the first of Saturday's two races on the front row of the grid.
In the Supertwins class he eased himself into the seat of the unfamiliar Paton with eighth in the first session and improved by almost two seconds in the second session to head the second row of the grid for Race 1.
Courtney meanwhile had put the Honda on to the second row of the grid for the Moto 3/GP125 race and he would go on to finish with two impressive Top 10 finishes including a sixth in Race 2.
The first Supersport race was shaping up for a battle between Kennedy, Richard Kerr and Jason Lynn when it was stopped after four laps with just 0.37 seconds between them, and on the re-start Robert quickly seized the initiative to lead by 0.84s at the end of the opening lap of five from Kerr and Aaron Clifford.
Kennedy was flying and he set what would be the fastest lap of the race at 96.46mph on Lap 2 to edge away further.
At the halfway stage he led by 1.44 seconds from Kerr with Clifford dropping back, and at the flag he extended his advantage slightly to take the honours.
The second Supersport race can only be described as a cracker, with Kennedy, Kerr and Lynn treating the large crowd to a real autumn treat.
Robert led at the end of the first lap and then Kerr took over at the front with Kennedy regaining the lead by the halway point.
Lynn meanwhile had also joined the party, having come from sixth on the first lap with the next rider Aaron Clifford some five seconds back, and the three pacesetters continued their battle to the line as Robert determinedly held his nerve to bring the R6 Yamaha home for a very popular double Supersport win and just rewards after what has been a frustrating period for him.
It was Team ILR's sponsor and good friend Chris Morton's wish that 'RK' should have an outing on the Team ILR/Mark Coverdale Paton S1-R before the season drew to a close, and Bishopscourt provided that opportunity as Robert and Team ILR took the bike to two brilliant fifth place finishes in the Supertwin races, with performances that were all the more impressive given that it was Robert's first time on the Paton and it was also the bike's short circuit debut.
Sadly 'Morty' recently passed away and didn't see his wish fulfilled, but we are in no doubt that he would have been proud of everyone's team effort and professionalism.
Team ILR owner-manager Ian Lougher:
"It was the second weekend in a row where we were reacquainting our ties with an ex-rider of ours with Connall joining us for the Sunflower meeting.
Considering he has't raced since April, Connall had a good couple of races, getting quicker lap by lap and lapped quicker than the bike has ever been around Bishopcourt, which was some achievement considering his lap of track time.
RK was back on form after his knee injury from June which has plaqued him a lot.
His two wins on his R6 were great races to watch and he handled the pressure well and got quite near the lap record too, top man.
On the Mark Coverdale Paton in the first race he had to ride without first gear working, so he did well to bring it home in 5th.
In the second race we tried a different suspension set up and it didn't quite work as we had hoped and another 5th place finish was its maximum. But it was great to be able to give it its first race on short circuits, where unlike on the roads you don't get so much time to experiment with various options.
So that's it for 2018, we've had a fairly good season as a team, but as usual there always seems to be one thing or another to upset the apple cart and this leaves you feeling a bit down.
But I've been in this sport for 37 seasons now and as they say 'it's never easy hi, otherwise everybody would be doing it.'
So we'll crack on and come back fighting in 2019.
I'd like to thank everyone who has supported us, our sponsors, fans, mechanics, PR man and especially my wife Asa for putting up with me.
Also best wishes to all the families and loved ones who have lost riders and had to deal with injuries."
"What a rollercoaster of a season it's been for me, we've had some good times but a lot of low moments and I would just thank to thank everyone who has made this season possible for me to be able to race.
Was so nice to get a run on the Mark Coverdale/Team ILR Paton, a massive thanks to Mark and Ian for giving me the opportunity, it was brilliant fun to ride as we managed two 5th places on it. Also it was so nice to win both Supersport 600 races, but they didn't come easy.
Again a massive thank-you to all my team for making this possible, all my sponsors/family and friends, and of course Team ILR and Geoffy Barnes for working with me all weekend."
"I really enjoyed the Sunflower Trophy races it's a meeting I've some good memories of over the years, and this year's event was fantastic with the large crowd and good weather.
It was great to be back on the Team ILR Moto 3 Honda that I rode in 2016 and considering the time I have been out of the sport I was happy with my performances, it has given me the confidence and drive to push forward towards the 2019 season.
A massive thank-you to Ian Lougher for giving me the opportunity for a one-off ride with the team, and to my sponsors Modern Tyres and Brian Jones at Mototech who have stayed alongside me despite the absence, and of course my family for maintaining their support for me."