Fresh from his recent success of clinching the Irish and Ulster Superbike road race championships, Manxman Dan Kneen claimed the biggest win of his career to date when he won a thrilling Superstock race at the Ulster Grand Prix last Saturday, his first ever International road race victory.
In what proved to be the closest ever race in the history of the event, Dan edged out Dean Harrison on the run in to the line by just 0.001s after a five lap race that also saw Kiwi Bruce Anstey in the mix. However, the fine line of road racing and ecstasy and despair came to light less than an hour later when Harrison crashed out of the Supersport race with his wayward machine collecting Dan and also Keith Amor. The resulting chaos left all three in hospital with numerous fractures, Dan sustaining a badly broken foot.
Up until then, Dan’s fine form of 2014 was continuing as he qualified on the front two rows for all of the Ulster GP races, the highlight being a 131mph lap on the Cookstown BE Racing Suzuki Superbike. Having used the Dundrod 150 Superbike race, where he finished tenth, for more practice time on the Marks Bloom Racing Suzuki Superstock mount, it was this race that started the action on Saturday.
Right from the start, there was nothing between the three riders and going into the final lap, the leading trio came along the Flying Kilo three abreast and the lead would change hands on no less than five occasions over the closing 7.4 miles. On the final run from the hairpin to the start and finish, Dan closed in on Harrison all the time and went round the outside of him as they flashed across the line with Anstey opting for the inside line. Everyone waited for the timing screens and it was Dan who got the verdict from Harrison and Anstey.
The Supersport race followed but Harrison crashed at Ireland’s on the opening lap and, with the pack tightly bunched, the ensuing melee saw firstly Amor and then Dan also crash with the Braddan rider having his foot pinned against the ground by his machine. Although only one bone was broken, it was badly crushed and he was due to see a specialist today (Monday) to determine what surgery will be required.
Speaking about the event, Dan commented, "Up until the Supersport race, I’d been having a great Ulster GP and the Superstock win was the icing on the cake. I was happy with the speeds in qualifying and had good grid positions but the Superstock race was unbelievably close and Dean was quicker in some places and I was quicker in others so neither of us could ever get a good run. It must have been great to watch as we were swapping positions all the time but it was tricky as some parts were dry, some damp and some soaking. There wasn’t a right tyre to use so you just had to ride to the conditions. My plan was to be ahead going into the hairpin and then make a break but I overshot which allowed Dean by although it all worked out in the end.”
“I tried to pass him in a couple of places before the end but in the end I just had to go for it on the final bend. It couldn’t have been any closer but I was over the moon to get my first International win. I went from a massive high to a major low less than an hour later though but I literally had nowhere to go. I was ahead of Dean and Keith at Leathemstown only for them to out-drag me along Deer’s Leap and when I saw the pair of them go down, I knew I was going to go down too and ploughed straight into all the bikes. I think the foot peg went through my boot causing the damage and although it’s only one bone, I seem to have made a good job of it. I’ve just got to wait now on the diagnosis and concentrate on getting fixed up and taking it all from there.”
The spill and resulting injury have brought an early end to Dan’s season, a year in which he’s contested the Irish National road races, rather than the British Championship, with devastating effect. The now 27-year old took no less than 6 Grand Final wins and comfortably won both the Irish and Ulster Superbike Road Race Championships.
“I didn’t know what to expect going into the season as all the circuits were new to me and with not much practice at any of the meetings, I had an awful lot of learning to do. I did plenty of laps in the van at all of the circuits and having John (Burrows) running the team, it meant there was always someone to chat to as he knew all of the meetings inside out. I really enjoyed all of them and they were all challenging and in different ways so it was very different to the British Championship meetings I’ve been used to in recent years.”
“The competition kept me on my toes all year with the likes of Derek Sheils and Derek McGee very quick whilst some meetings also saw the Dunlops and Guy Martin on the entry. I grabbed plenty of race wins along the way, getting the better of practically all of them so with two major Championship wins it couldn’t have worked out any better. It’s obviously a shame the crash happened when it did as we could have had even more top class results but that’s racing. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the year so a big thank you to everyone involved and for all their support.”
Dan still hopes to be fit for November’s Macau Grand Prix and has provisionally pencilled in the meeting for his return to racing.
Pictures by Stephen Davison – Pacemaker Press International