Triple Irish road racing champion Derek McGee will make his debut on an ex-Moto3 Grand Prix machine at the KDM Hire Cookstown 100 this month.
The Mullingar man will ride the former Niccolo Antonelli machine, which was previously run by the Gresini Racing team in the world championship.
Prepared by Italian mechanic and ex-racer Francesco Faraldo, the exotic Moto3 bike is sure to attract plenty of attention in the Irish national road racing paddocks in 2019.
McGee, who competed in the class for the past few seasons on the Joey’s Bar Racing Honda, told the News Letter: “I’m riding a Moto3 bike for Francesco Faraldo, who’s based in Italy. I met him at the TT last year and struck up a bit of relationship and got talking from there.
“Gary (Dunlop) wasn’t sure what he was doing this year and it turned out that Francesco had bought a bike, which we were obviously interested in.
“With Gary not completely sure what his plans were, we talked about things and said we’d go our separate ways this year and I took up Francesco’s offer,” he added.
“On paper it’s a really good-looking bike and it’s an ex-Grand Prix bike, which Francesco bought through Gresini Honda. It’s Niccolo Antonelli’s old bike and it’s an amazing machine.
“We’ll do Cookstown and Tandragee and obviously the only international meeting where I’ll get to ride the bike will be the Ulster Grand Prix at Dundrod.
“We’ll do some of the other small Irish national races as well and Walderstown have brought the Moto3 class back this year, so we’ll probably do Faugheen and hopefully Kells too.”
McGee smashed the lap record at the Cookstown 100 last year as he powered to victory on the Joey’s Bar Honda by over eight seconds from young gun Adam McLean.
He was in the hunt for the Moto3 Irish road racing title as he chased a fourth crown in 2018, but McGee missed out on championship glory when he lost power in the closing stages of the final race at Killalane, where he was riding a borrowed machine.
Ballymoney’s Paul Robinson clinched the title to cap the perfect finale to his road racing career, with the former British championship rider deciding to hang up his helmet for good.
Robinson is still involved in the sport this year and is running former 50cc champion Sam Grief on his Moto3 Honda machine.
McGee is part of a strong line-up for the Cookstown 100, which lifts the curtain on the new Irish road racing season from April 26-27 at the Orritor course in Co. Tyrone.
In addition to the Moto3 race, he will also compete in the Superbike class on the NJ Doyne Kawasaki and will ride the B&W/Cutting Edge Kawasaki Supersport machine.
Last year’s Lightweight TT runner-up has linked up with Ryan Farquhar again and will ride a KMR Kawasaki in the Supertwin class.
The Cookstown entry also includes Derek McGee on the Burrows Engineering/RK Racing Suzuki, Adam McLean (McAdoo Kawasaki), Michael Sweeney (Martin Jones Racing), Paul Jordan (Alistair Russell Yamaha R6) and newcomer Tom Weeden, who has joined John Burrows’ team for 2019.
Roads close for practice on Friday, April 26 from 10am, when the Open Superbike race is scheduled following practice.
On Saturday, April 27, roads will close at 10am for the main race programme, which includes the Cookstown 100 feature event.