Dunlop Masters Supersport crown secured by Keyes as Ryan edges towards Superbike title number four.
A race two crash, his first non-finish of the season was not enough to stop Offaly rider Kevin Keyes from securing the 2021 Dunlop Masters Supersport Championship with three rounds to spare, at Mondello Park on Sunday. While Keyes was lifting his first Masters crown since 2014, Superbike king Richie Ryan from Kilkenny was taking his first treble of the season to move closer to securing his fourth Superbike title in a row.
Keyes has been the class of the Supersport field this season as he took a year off from competing in the British championship while Covid restrictions were in place. Three riders, Adam McLean, Michael Dunlop and Mike Browne have taken the fight to the former Supersport Cup champion, but Keyes has beaten all comers to take nine wins from twelve races and wrap up the series with one event left to run.
Qualifying for race one saw Keyes take pole by seven tenths of second from Browne and his his closest championship challenger Andrew Murphy. As expected Browne was the pole sitters closest opposition but by lap four Keyes was out in front on his own. as Browne retired to braking difficulties. Behind Keyes a huge battle raged throughout the race between Murphy, Michael Owens and Supersport Cup front runners Jamie Collins and Scott McCrory. At the flag Keyes won by seven seconds with Murphy and Owens securing the podium positions. as Collins took the Cup win from McCrory.
Race two initially followed the same pattern as the first encounter until a couple of laps in, three crashes at different corners brought out the red flag. Keyes was one of the retirements while Brown was also a faller in a separate incident. On the restart the second place battle from race one was now the lead battle and it was Murphy who came out on top to take his first win since the penultimate event of 2019. Owens was second while Collins took the Cup win and his first ever overall podium, in third place, ahead of McCrory.
Race three saw normal service resumed as Keyes took his hastily repaired bike to another comfortable win to wrap up the championship. Murphy had to battle back from a poor start to once again take second as he caught and passed Collins, Oisin Maher, McCrory and Owens. At the flag the result was a repeat of race one as Murphy and Owens came home second and third. Behind them McCrory got the better of Collins to keep his hopes of taking the Supersport Cup title alive.
The Superbike races were all about Richie Ryan who took three race wins in a single weekend for the first time since the opening event of 2019. Behind him the podium places were filled by Thomas O’Grady and Emmet O’Grady. On each occasion Thomas had to battle his way past Emmet to take second place and the Dubliner was particularly impressive in race three as he went around the outside of his Kerry rival at turn one, to take the place. With Derek Sheils absent and Michael Sweeney slightly off his usual pace following his Cookstown road race accident, Ryan had it easier than it has been all season and now looks odds on to take his fourth Superbike title.
The opening Superbike Cup win went to the very impressive Shane Connolly who picked up the highest finish recorded by a Cup rider for a number of years, as he came home fourth overall. Unfortunately for the Cavan rider he failed to finish the remaining two races and with series leader Evan O’Grady also sitting out races two and three, Dean O’Grady emerged as the unlikely championship leader following a pair of wins, ahead of impressive Superbike newcomer Andrew Whearty.
The Principal Insurance Pre-Injection races produced three more wins for Ian Prendergast who has now taken nine wins in succession, despite the intense competition he has faced, to put him on the brink of taking back the title he won in 2018. The battle at the front of the DM Groundworks and FJS Plant Junior race was closer than it has been all year. In Junior Supersport, Reece Coyne had been the dominant force until this weekend where he faced a strong challenge from Ajay Carey and Darragh O’Mahony. The Championship leader had to settle for third in races one and two as Carey took both wins, ahead of O’Mahony, but Coyne bounced back in race three to win it from O’Mahony and Carey. The small Moto1 grid produced wins for Josh O’Brien and Jeff Quilter but it was Aoife Griffin who was happiest at the end of the weekend as her consistent finishing leaves her in pole position to become the first female Masters champion, in her rookie season.
The final Twins race of the day had to be canceled as the heavy rain which had been forecast finally arrived. Earlier Mick Sweeney had taken two Supertwin wins ahead of Kevin Baker, to close the gap to Baker at the top of the standings to just five points. In the Production category Darragh Crean took both wins with Terry Bradley and Brandon Crean taking a second place each and Gareth Morrell third both times. Steven Tobin wrapped up the Moto 400 championship by keeping his 100% win record intact, while Michael Prendergast and Liam Dunne shared the Classic Superbike wins. The three sidecar races produced two wins for Mark Codd and Liam Gordon and one victory for Darren O’Dwyer and James Ging, which leaves Codd well clear of O’Dwyer in the championship hunt.
The finale of the Masters will now take place with ten of the twelve titles still to be decided. The final three rounds for each class will be run on the Mondello Park National Track on Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th of October.
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