I set off from home around 7 am on practice morning for the 50 mile journey to the Co Tyrone town of Cookstown. Called into Tesco for some juice and provisions and made good time to the Orritor Road circuit.
I called into friends Robert, Ronnie and Jeannettes house for a brew and a scone. They are lucky enough to live close to Gortin Corner on the circuit and have been very hospitable to me and others over the years. I then headed up the hill to the paddock to get signed on as a zone marshal at McAdoo Bends. This area of the course has been controversial in the past as a local farmer has been in dispute with the Cookstown and District MCC. I had never even watched the racing in this area before so I headed round an hour and half before road closing to get a look at all the hazards. The corner is a tight and narrow right hander rising uphill between hedges and farm buildings at the exit. The road surface was pretty good except for some small potholes on the inside of the corner and some milk which had leaked from a tanker.
Before too long 2 radio operators from Raynet arrived, along with 2 marshals, an ambulance and several paramedics. The PSNI also supplied 4 officers for the duration of the practice.
Francis Everard was Clerk of the course and was soon on the radio making sure everything was ready for roads closing and before long the 2012 Irish Road Racing season was go. It was great to see some of the new machines, teams and riders with some well known faces doing very well. Our first incident of the day came early. #77 Ryan Farqhaur was leading the supertwin practice by a second or two and took the tight right hander very short and his foot peg caught in one of the sandbags covering potholes. His bike and himself were launched into the blue safety bale and into the hedge. Thankfully neither Ryan nor bike were hurt, infact Ryan was that angry he promptly despatched the sandbags onto the verge.
The rest of the practice session was delayed several times due to red flag incidents on other parts of the circuit but we did eventually get finished around 2130 or so. We had been fortunate with the weather.
After clearing up and getting another brew from Jeanettes I set off home and was in for about 11pm. Not much time to chill out though as I needed to leave before 7 the next morning.
Nicky and William arrived in good time on Saturday and together we set off back towards Cookstown. The weather was fine and we made good time, arriving around 8 am. We got sined on at the paddock and then managed to park the car back at Jeanettes and enjoy the hospitality. We met plenty of friends that we see only at this time of year. Fortunately there were a few more marshals for race day and we took our place at McAdoo bends. The BBC arrived with a cherry picker to get some of the great cornering shots we hope to see on TV later this month.
The first session passed without incident but then the challenging day began in earnest. Bobby McAdoo is a local land owner and farmer who has been in dispute with the local club for some time. I was aware of this and had been advised to expect some trouble. However I was suprised a little as practice day had gone so well. Mr McAdoo decided that he would close a set of large gates leading onto his property. This meant that bales would need to be placed in front of the gates to protect riders from hitting them in the event of an off. However he was adamant that the bales should not be placed on his property at all and also that his property extended out into the road. This meant that bales which had been fine up to now needed to be pushed into the road by a couple of feet or more. Of course this meant a change of racing line, created a very narrow section of road and was not readily acceptable to the clerk of the course – and I agree. Riders had practiced without incident in this area and this change would make the corner a completely different animal. The PSNI and local members all spent a lot of time discussing options with the land owner until we realised that nothing was going to satisfy him. It was decided to remove all non essential officials from the scene and allow the PSNI to try and sort out a compromise. After a delay of around an hour we were able to get racing back underway. I must admit at one stage I felt we may lose the meeting completely. There will need to be lots of work over the next year to try and avoid this happening again. The clerk of the course decided that the altered section of track should be controlled by means of waved yellow, which it was, although only for a couple of races until all the guys and girls were completely satisfied with the change.
Once racing finally got going the action was superb. Ryan, Guy, Michael and William were all flying as was Adrian. It was excellent to see all the lads back in fine form. And the ladies of course. Maria and Yvonne were both doing really well too
We were unfortunate to witness a pretty bad off on the approach to our corner. The rider appeared to lose control and went onto the verge before being thrown off backwards, hitting the road very hard. I wont go into the details of course but after screaming for a red flag I ran to the casualty closely by Doc Fred who was fortunately parked with us. The rider was unconcious and struggling to breathe. I removed his helmet and glasses under supervision of Fred and helped until the rest of the MCUI team arrived. I am pleased to say that I have heard recently that he suffered severe concussion and a broken leg and has now been released from hospital. The whole squad of marshals, first aiders, medics and officials did a great job. One of the more dissappointing things was trying to stop spectators walking up the closed road to view the injured rider and medics at their work.
I suppose the delay was around half an hour or more but all 18 superb races were completed before roads were due to open.It was grand to see Mickal Doukopil return after his nasty accident last year. He seemed really happy to be back and even did several donuts for the fans on the last warm down lap.