New Honda Racing signing Guy Martin is lapping up his highly anticipated return to the 57th Around-A-Pound Tandragee 100 in April, which was officially launched in Craigavon on Wednesday evening.
It has been 12 years since Martin’s last appearance at the popular Irish National meeting in 2005, when he was still learning his trade between the hedges as part of the Uel Duncan Racing team.
The TV celebrity will undoubtedly be the star attraction at the first road race of 2017 as Martin makes his debut on his all-new Honda Fireblade SP2 Superstock machine.
The 35-year-old has joined John McGuinness in the official Honda squad after taking a year out of the sport following a crash in the Dundrod 150 Superbike race at the Ulster Grand Prix in 2015.
Martin, who finished third and fifth in the Open and feature Tandragee 100 races and fourth in the Supersport event on his last appearance, says the spectacular 5.3-mile course is ‘hairy’ but admits he cannot wait to sample Irish road racing at its very best once more.
“The Irish lot are great. I haven’t raced at Tandragee for 12 years and I’d only been road racing three years back then,” reflected Martin.
“It’s bloody hairy, so I’m looking forward to it.
“All this winter I’ve been racing on the beach, which has been mega. I want to get as much time on a bike as I can and I want to get back to enjoying racing bikes again.”
Acknowledging the support of his huge fanbase here, Martin added on his official Facebook page: “Thanks very much for the support, most appreciated as ever.”
The Grimbsy man may be the headline act at Tandragee on April 21-22, but the organising North Armagh Club has put together a superb entry that also includes Ballymoney’s William Dunlop on the IC Racing/Caffrey Yamaha R6, Derek Sheils on the Cookstown/B.E. Racing machines and fellow southern Irishman Derek McGee.
Skerries man Michael Sweeney is also entered along with Alan Bonner, Seamus Elliott, Shaun Anderson, Gary Dunlop and the evergreen Davy Morgan.
Magherafelt’s Paul Jordan and Adam McLean from Tobermore, both of whom will make their debuts at the Isle of Man TT this year, add more quality to the packed grids.
The Tandragee circuit was voted the fourth best road racing course in the world behind the TT, Macau and Dundrod and its appeal is underlined by the interest from competitors around Europe.
Around 350 entries have been received with 42 newcomers set to tackle the event for the very first time next month.
Popular Italian rider Dario Cecconi will return again this year along with Czech duo Michal Dokoupil and Veronika Hankocyova.
Newcomers Mathias Winkenjohann and Vassitios Takos from Germany and Italy’s Matteo Bleggi add to the international flavour of the event.
Anne Forsythe, Honorary Secretary of the North Armagh Motorcycle and Car Club Ltd and Clerk of the Course at Tandragee, said: “As always costs have risen this year, however we are delighted to be able to offer a prize fund of over £10,000. All the races this year will be Irish and Ulster Championships races with the exception of the First Open Race and Forgotten Era class, which will be non-championship events.
“We appeal to everyone to support the Around-A-Pound Tandragee 100 by purchasing a programme as this is one of the main revenue streams for the event and/or make a donation in the bucket with the programme sellers.”
The feature Tandragee 100 race has a prize fund of more than £2,000, with £1,000 going to the winner.
Roads will close for practice on Friday, April 21 at 3pm and on Saturday, April 22 at 10am.
Programmes cost £15 and admission to the official car parks and grandstands is £5 on both days.
Race 1 – McCrum’s Motorcycles Open
Race 2 – Principal Insurance Junior Support
Race 3 – McCullagh Property Supersport
Race 4 – Phillip Riddell Memorial Classic
Race 5 – City Autos Lightweight
Race 6 – Tandragee Supervalu Senior Support
Race 7 – Tayto NI Ltd Supertwins
Race 8 – Around-A-Pound Tandragee 100 Senior Open
Meanwhile, the Injured Riders Welfare Fund has organised a sponsored walk on Sunday, April 9, leaving Moyourkan Orange Hall at 2pm and covering a lap of the course. Refreshments will be provided. For further details, contact Sheila Sinton on 028 3884 1367 or 07780916107.