It was a satisfactory Ulster Grand Prix for Team ILR with the team fielding no fewer than four riders in the Supertwin class. Circuit specialist and 18 times UGP winner Ian Lougher was joined by Joe Loughlin and circuit newcomers James Chawke and Naoki Matsumoto.
The course was hit by heavy rain particularly at the back of the course just as the Supertwins were due on the track for qualifying on Wednesday afternoon, forcing a re-think on tyre choice. The session would see three Team ILR riders in the Top 10 with Loughlin 2nd, Lougher 8th and Chawke 10th.
Thankfully the weather had improved greatly for Thursday's race as Loughlin set the pace on the opening lap.
A five-rider battle for the lead soon developed and at the end of the second lap, and the halfway point in the race, it was still Joe in front but just one second covered himself, Paul Jordan, Lee Johnston, Christian Elkin and Jamie Coward. Ian was also riding strongly in fifth with James right behind him for company. Loughlin still led at the end of the third lap but it was a slender advantage and as they raced down the Flying Kilo Jordan hit the front. It was now a race to the flag between Jordan, Loughlin and Coward with Elkin dropping off the pace and Johnston a retirement at the Lindsay Hairpin on the third lap, and despite a valiant attempt by Joe, at the line it was Paul Jordan who got the verdict by just 0.092s to take his first International road race victory from Loughlin with Coward third.
All three lapped at over 119mph on the last lap.
Ian Lougher finished a strong fifth after being involved in a frantic four-rider dice with Xavier Denis, Jonathan Perry and James Chawke, who brought the third Team ILR/Mark Coverdale Paton home in a fine 8th place.
Matsumoto had a lonely but enjoyable ride in 21st on the Team ILR/Mark Coverdale Kawasaki ER6.
If Thursday's race was exciting, Saturday's second encounter was another thriller with Loughlin again in the hunt for the race win this time with Christian Elkin.
The two grabbed the initiative from the lights and again it was Loughlin who led them through at the end of opening lap by 0.269s with Lee Johnston in third. Behind them a three-way battle for fourth was taking place between Thursday's winner Paul Jordan, Jamie Coward and the wily and experienced Lougher.
Joe still led on the second lap but on the next lap Elkin got in front and led by the narrowest of margins as they went on to their penultimate lap. Despite Elkin slightly extending his lead to more than half a second, Joe was far from finished and he fought back to take the fight to Christian on the last lap. At the Lindsay Hairpin it was Loughlin who led only for Elkin to ride round the outside of him at the Flowbog Crossroads.
As they flew through the Quarries there was drama as they encountered a backmarker at Dawson's, Joe saw a chance to capitalise on this but his brave effort just fell short as Elkin held on to win by just 0.078s. Pau Jordan just got the better of Ian for fifth with James Chawke in tenth and Matsumoto going one better than Race 1 to finish 20th.
"A great week all round at the Ulster Grand Prix, between the people helping me, the team, the people supporting me....and the unbelievable racing!! Firstly getting the opportunity to work with a professional team like Team ILR was better than expected with a great package, advice, and Ian even helping me set up my Supersport bike.
Thanks Ian, Asa, Mark and all the people who made this opportunity possible.
Wednesday qualifying went great with 2nd place on the twin in wet conditions. Thursday's race on the Supertwin was the race of my life with about 10 passes a lap which was fought out to the line where I finished second by under one hundredth of a second.
Saturday's Supertwin race was another close race, dicing with Elkin for the last 2 laps and losing out by under one hundred of a second again. Thanks to everyone who helped me out over the week.
Thanks to my family, friends, photographers, marshalls, medical team and the Ulster Grand Prix Club, Lavina for the sandwiches, and all my family and friends."
"I had a great Ulster GP, first time there and a lot to learn but I really enjoyed it.
I had a great race on Thursday with Ian Lougher and enjoyed every minute of it!
Saturday's race was a bit tricky, I had a bad start but managed get to get back up to 10th overall.
It was a great Ulster GP even if the the weather wasn't great and I can't thank Team ILR and Mark Coverdale enough for everything, and also thanks to Carl Roberts and Dan for all their help. "
そして、最後に夢のようなチャンスを与えて下さったTeam I.L.R. with Mark Coverdaleの
"My impressions of Ulster GP are difficult and also enjoyable. The difficult parts were that I couldn't grasp the circuit condition and it was completely different from riding closed circuit.
But what I enjoyed was that I could understand and digest these things little by little in myself. There are still so many things I have to learn yet, but I hope I can compete it again every year, so I can be level up for it.
I would like to thank Noel, Eddie,Robert and all who are involved in ULSTER GP and also I appreciate all marshals, helper and spectators. All people are so nice and kind to me.
And also I appreciate Team ILR. with Mark Coverdale for gave me a chance to try Ulster GP. It was like a dream opportunity.
Finally, I want to thank Ian, Asa, Mark, Jacko, Dessie, Willie, Robert and all the people who are involved in Team ILR. And the biggest thanks to Sean and his family who have been indebted since their first encounter in 2014. Thank you very much for everything!"
Team ILR owner-manager Ian Lougher :
"As usual I always look forward to the Ulster GP. It's fair to say it's my favourite circuit on the calendar for me personally.
With a new recruit by the name of Joseph Loughlin on board one of our Team ILR/Mark Coverdale Patons, plus James Chawke and newcomer Japanese rider Naoki Matsumoto on the ER6 Kawasaki, it was going to be exciting but a busy time for all concerned.
With the typical Dundrod weather doing its best to ruin things, with heavy showers turning to sunshine making tyre choices very difficult, plus the fact the twins class only gets one practice session for the whole meeting, it makes it even more stressful.
But with drying roads on wet tyres being the norm it was only Thursday's race that would allow us to use dry tyres. With all our riders acquitting themselves brilliantly it was Joe Loughlin who stole the show with a 2nd in qualifying, following that up with 2nd in both races, narrowly missing the win on both occasions.
His ability on wets is amazing and I'm sure shocked a few people, except for Keith and Donna Racing who brought him to our attention in the first place...thanks both.
James narrowly missed beating me in the first race but struggled a bit in Saturday's race coming home 10th, not bad at all for a newcomer!!!
And he's learning all the time.
Matsumoto san was a joy to work with and I'm so pleased he could fulfill his dream of racing abroad in joining our team.
As for myself I was happy enough with a 5th and 6th I guess...but I do find it difficult these days trying to give maximum effort to our other team riders whilst trying to push myself enough too.
I must say a big thank you to all our team partners and sponsors, especially Mr Mark Coverdale who has been there for us every step of the way. Also to Asa and all the mechanics, helpers, PR man, who made it all happen....very much appreciated thank you so much."