The Masters Superbike Championship will kick off the 2017 season on the Mondello Park National Circuit this Saturday and Sunday March 25th & 26th, with a massive 40% increase in entries compared to the 2016 season opener.
All of the main classes will begin the new season with increased entries with the Supersport class increasing to over forty machines, despite some high profile defections to Superbike. Leading the entry will be 2016 Supersport Cup champion Aaron Clifford who returns on the Kingsbury Kawasaki he campaigned last season. Clifford’s main opposition will come from Kingsbury team mate Ross Patterson and the highly experienced Jason Lynn, with Dean McMaster and Aaron Armstrong also likely to challenge at the front.
The Supersport Cup class will be the most hotly contested championship at the Masters in 2017 with so many riders moving in from other classes as well as a number of riders returning for another bite. Reigning British KTM Cup champion Aaron Wright joins the series and will start as one of the favourites along with double Masters Production Twin champion Mark McConville. With more than thirty riders eligible for the Cup, the battle could well overshadow the fight for overall Supersport race wins.
The Superbike class has also seen a resurgence with entries over the thirty mark. Brian McCormack returns for 2017 hoping to put a disappointing 2016 season behind him. Also returning are Gerard Kinghan, on a brand new Kawasaki, Cody Nally, Declan Hoey and Mark Glasgow on ZX10’s, two new Yamaha R1’s for 2016 Cup champion Charles Stuart and Supersport graduate Richie Ryan and a quartet of new BMW’s ridden by Supersport Champion Luke Johnston, Peter Moloney, Gary O’Brien and Mark O’Byrne. O’Brien, a former Supersport Cup champion will be hard to beat in the Superbike Cup class where his main opposition could come from Kawasaki rider Wayne Sheehan and Superbike debutante Jamie O’Keefe.
Principal Insurance continue as title sponsors of the Pre-Injection Championship and this is another class to experience growth for the season opener. Having suffered a poor season by his standards last year, 2015 champion Paul McCrea will start as favourite to win back the crown. Of his 2016 rivals only Joe Grant is currently on the entry list, leaving the way open for some new names to move to the front.
Of the remaining classes the biggest increases in grid size can be found in the Twins, where the twenty two bike entry is equally split between the faster Supertwins and the less powerful Production machines. With 2016 Champion Aaron Armstrong moving on to Superbike, Dave Butler will be looking to the new faces to provide the opposition as he looks to win back the title he lifted in 2015. In Production Twins Eoin O’Siochru will be hoping to go one better than 2016, when he was beaten into second place by the now departed Mark McConville.
Also on the programme this weekend will be Lightweight Supersport, a combined race for Young Guns and Junior Cup and Sidecars. Each class will race three times over the two days with race one on Saturday and races two and three on Sunday.
Tickets for the Masters Superbike Championship opener are available to purchase on-line from www.masterssuperbike.ie with discounts available on Sunday admission and fantastic savings on weekend tickets. All admission includes a complimentary event programme and accompanied under sixteen’s are admitted free of charge.
For all the info on the Masters follow the series at facebook.com/MastersSuperbike, twitter.com/MastersSBK or on the championship web site www.masterssuperbike.ie.