Team ILR owner-manager Ian Lougher rolled back the years at Dundrod with his 51st podium around the famous circuit thanks to a superb third place finish in the Supertwin race. 
It was also his 41st podium finish at the Ulster Grand Prix as he closes in on the late Joey Dunlop's tally of 44. 

Lougher's competitive return to the event after a five year absence was greeted with a universal and genuine warm welcome for one of the event's outstanding competitors, and he soon showed he had lost none of his sharpness around the 7.4 miles circuit. 

In an opening Supertwin qualifying session he registered the tenth quickest time and clocked the fastest speed through the speed trap at 158.1mph despite a clutch problem on his Paton. His young team-mate and protege Joey Thompson went two places better in eighth, and a 9th in the Supersport and 5th in the Lightweight class by Thompson cemented a good first practice/qualifying day for the team. 

Wednesday's showery first day of action gave way, at least initially, to bright sunshine on Thursday morning and Joey finished the Supersport standings as 13th quickest. 
He then topped the Lightweight session to put himself on pole for the afternoon's race and he was also the man to catch down the 'Flying Kilo' being quickest in both sessions through the speed trap. 

Ominous looking clouds over Lough Neagh soon brought heavy rain to the circuit just as the Supersport race started and the Clerk of the Course Noel Johnston wisely brought a halt to proceedings. 
A lengthy delay ensued as the rain continued with standing water becoming a concern, not to mention the 'river' of water in the Team ILR awning! 

It was well past 6pm as the Superwins took to the circuit with Adam McLean grabbing an early lead closely pursued by Christian Elkin as the two quickly pulled clear of the chasing pack including, from the third row of the grid, Lougher in fourth and Thompson 2.5 seconds back in sixth. 

On the second lap a three-way battle for third was shaping up between Michael Sweeney, Davey Todd and Ian, with Joey watching the action from sixth on the second Paton. 
On lap three, McLean had pulled away and would go on to take the win from Elkin, but the excitement was the dice for third with half a second covering Todd, Lougher and Sweeney. 

As they went on to their last lap, Lougher had moved into third and he was able to use the speed of the Paton down the Flying Kilo to maintain the advantage towards Leathemstown. 
Calling on all his guile and experience in the tricky conditions, Ian led out of the Lindsay Hairpin and the crowd cheered him on through the Quarries section as he brilliantly held on to cross the line a very popular third with under two tenths of a second covering the trio. 
Joey meanwhile had rode consistently to round off the Top 6 and he was also the fastest rider through the Flying Kilo speed trap at 154.8mph with Ian joint second fastest on 152mph along with Michael Sweeney and Xavier Denis. 

The Supersport bikes were out next and Conor Cummins and Adam McLean soon pulled away from Davey Todd and Dean Harrison who were battling for third with Peter Hickman clear in fifth. 
From the fourth row of the grid, Joey had got himself into a five rider battle for sixth with Dominic Herbertson, Christian Elkin, Neil Kernohan and Paul Jordan. At half distance one second covered the riders from sixth to tenth, and at the flag Joey superbly came up trumps to take sixth just ahead of Elkin and Herbertson with fractions of a second covering the three at the line. 

The unpredictable nature of motorcycle racing was evident in the next race however as Joey took to the track for the Lightweight race on his 250cc Yamaha. 
Joey was one of the race favourites but his race never got beyond the warm-up lap as he got caught out in the tricky conditions and crashed out at Leathemstown resulting in a visit to hospital where a broken toe was discovered, however he was passed fit to race by the doctors. 

Saturday race day will be remembered for the wrong reasons as early sunshine gave way to overcast conditions which soon reflected the mood in the paddock following the opening Superstock and Superbike races which were both red-flagged due to crashes. 
The re-started Superbike race then fell victim to the conditions, as did the Lightweight/Ultra-Lightweight race and the only race to run the distance was the first Supersport race which saw Peter Hickman dominate as he led from start to finish ahead of Lee Johnston and Conor Cummins. 
It was a race which saw three battles raging in the top ten with Team ILR's Joey Thompson involved in a titanic tussle for eighth with Dan Cooper, Christian Elkin, Darren Cooper and Dominic Herbertson. 
Showing no ill-effects of his crash less than 48 hours previously, Joey rode brilliantly and was just pipped for 7th by the tightest of margins by Dan Cooper, with Herbertson right behind in 9th and Elkin rounding out the Top 10. 

As the afternoon wore on the weather deteriorated further, with rain and poor visibility at the back and highest part of the circuit, and after lengthy delays the organisers took the only course of action they could and cancelled the remainder of the meeting. 

So a very challenging Ulster Grand Prix 2018 for all concerned, and in closing the thoughts of everyone at Team ILR are with the family and friends of Fabrice Miguet who tragically lost his life following a crash in the Superstock race, and we wish a speedy recovery to the other riders who were injured during the event. 

Team ILR owner-manager Ian Lougher
"With Joey getting best newcomer last year he was obviously quite excited to see how he would get on on his return visit to Dundrod. 
Riding his ZX6 and the Team ILR Paton he qualified 13th overall on the 600 and 10th on the Italian Paton. 
We had a few clutch issues on both of the Paton's in practice but managed to fix them for Thursday's race. 
Although I don't like it when people decide to make comebacks in racing I couldn't resist the chance to ride our team sponsor Mark Coverdale's beautiful Paton twin around Dundrod. 
It's been 5 years since I raced there and I was really looking forward to riding it again. 
The biggest problem I had was being over cautious on the opening lap as we had to fit a brand new unscrubbed rear wet after the warm up lap, but I had a good dice with Michael Sweeney and Davy Todd for third place from which I was well pleased to get on the rostrum. 
Joey had a very sensible race in the tricky conditions coming home in 6th place. 
For the 600 races which were run in much drier conditions he rode really well and we were over the moon with his 6th and 8th place finishes." 

Joey Thompson
"Ulster GP was difficult for us and probably a lot of the teams with the constant change of conditions, but as a team we stayed calm and worked really well and had a great set up for both conditions. 
I had a good run in both 600 races but just didn't have the pace in the wet on the Supertwin. 
I don't know where we go from here, but I want to say a massive thanks to Team ILR for their help and support, Mark Coverdale and also my dad for sticking behind me. 


         August 2018