The new Irish road racing season engages gear this weekend at the KDM Hire Cookstown 100.
Extensive resurfacing work has been undertaken in recent months at Braeside and Craigmount corners, which have proven problematic in the past.
Although the weather forecast currently looks less than favourable this weekend, the new track improvements could result in lap records around the 2.1-mile Orritor course in the right conditions.
Michael Dunlop is the current outright lap record holder, setting a speed of 91.48mph six years ago.
The line-up is led by Derek Sheils on the Burrows Engineering/RK Racing Suzuki, who won the sole Open Superbike race last year. Sheils will also compete on the Roadhouse Macau Yamaha in the Supersport class.
His opposition includes last year’s man of the meeting, Adam McLean, on the McAdoo Kawasaki machines. McLean has claimed three victories in the Supersport class at the Irish short circuit meetings and comes into the event in excellent form, although the 22-year-old was fortunate to escape injury after a heavy spill at Kirkistown in the second Supersport race on Easter Monday.
‘Mullingar Missile’ Derek McGee is also entered and the triple Irish champion will have a busy schedule as he competes in the Open, Supersport, Supertwin and Moto3 races.
Martin Jones Racing’s Michael Sweeney is another top southern Irish rider who is also a leading contender in the Open, Supersport and Supertwin classes, while Magherafelt’s Paul Jordan will get his campaign underway at Cookstown, where he will ride the Alistair Russell 600 Yamaha.
A host of newcomers is headed by former Senior Manx Grand Prix winner Tom Weeden, who has replaced Davey Todd in John Burrows’ team, while Adrian Harrison – brother of TT and Ulster GP winner Dean – also makes his debut on a Kawasaki ZX-10R.
Dutch lady Nadieh Schoots will also don the newcomers’ bib as she prepares for her first taste of Irish national road racing after racing at the North West 200 for the first time in 2018. Schoots has entered the Open and Cookstown 100 races.
Lincolnshire’s Guy Martin holds a provisional entry for the Classic race.
A reduced race programme sees 12 races on Saturday, April 27 (roads close 10am), while the first Open race will be held following qualifying on Friday evening, April 26 (roads close 12 noon).