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Motorcycling 2017: Review of the Year

Willis Marshall

2017 continued where the previous season ended with Ballyclare rider Jonathon Rea continuing to stamp his authority on the World Superbike scene,.

The 30-year- old Kawasaki rider broke all the records again by becoming the first man in World Superbike to record three back-to-back Championship titles,

He blew away the rest as he racked up win after win to take the title in 2017 with time to spare.

In an astonishing season, Rea took title number three from Welshman Chas Davis and fellow team member Tom Sykes to give the British riders a 1-2-3 in the series, stamping their intentions to continue where they left off.

Rea's achievements were recognised by the BBC with the Ballyclare man taking the runner-up place in the Sports Personality of the Year awards.

He also had a visit to Buckingham Palace where he received an MBE for his achievements over the past three seasons.

Just like Rea, Spain's Marc Marquez on the Repsol Honda notched up yet another World Motogp title after the Spaniard played his ace card during the middle part of the season when he just turned on the style to stay that one step ahead of his nearest rivals.

It looked like multiple World Champion Valentino Rossi was going to play along with Marquez only for the Italian to suffer a broken leg in the second half of the season, an injury that would ruin any chance he had of taking title number nine.

Nearer to home, and the MCE British Superbike Championships dealt up another unforgettable year with BeWiser Ducati rider Shane Byrne taking title number five.

It was a hectic year-long battle with JG Speedfit Kawasaki rider Leon Haslem.

Going into the final round at Brands Hatch Haslem held a slender lead over Byrne.

But it went all horribly wrong for Haslem when he suffered two high-speed crashes during the final three races, ending his title hopes.

Byrne took full advantage by winning all three races, making him the greatest BSB rider in history.

In the British Supersport 600 Championships, county Tyrone man Keith Farmer made a surprise showing.

The Clogher rider cleaned up in the race for the title to lift his third British honour from Carrickfergus rider Andrew Irwin, who pushed Farmer all the way.

The world of pure road racing took on a whole new look in 2017 with Dubliner Derek Sheils, on the Burrows Engineering Suzuki, taking the Irish Superbike title.

He took in all but one of the Irish rounds and won at most.

On the International front, Carrickfergus rider Alastair Seeley continued his dominance at the North West 200 where he extended his tally of wins around the seaside circuit to 19.

With one race remaining, the North West 200 Superbike race it looked almost certain that Seeley would take win number 20.

But fellow Carrickfergus rider Glenn Irwin, on the BeWiser Ducati, spoiled Seeley's party by taking a record breaking win, his first big bike win at the event.

It was a memorable North West 200 which for a first time in a few years ended with a fairy-tale finish.

Next up was the Isle of Man TT Races which would be without 24-time winner John McGuinness.

He had suffered a serious leg injury after a practice crash at the North West 200.

Guy Martin was the sole Honda representative at the TT but he also would soon be ruled out after crashing out unhurt during the TT Superbike race.

Such was Honda's concern about what had happened to McGuinness and Martin that they withdrew from the remainder of TT17.

Much hype had been built up between Tyco BMW rider Ian Hutchinson and Bennetts Suzuki rider Michael Dunlop with this pair seeming to be the main two gladiators at TT2017.

It was Hutchinson who claimed first blood in the opening Superbike TT race after taking the win from Peter Hickman while Michael Dunlop stamped his ownership in the Supersport 600 race leaving a fantastic grand final on the Friday in the Blue Riband Senior TT Race.

Hutchinson soon got his nose into the lead but the race was stopped after Hutchinson came to grief on the mountain section of the TT circuit.

While it looked as if his injuries could be serious, Hutchinson was in fact lucky to escape with a broken fever and minor injuries.

The race was restarted and Dunlop on the Bennetts Suzuki stormed into an unassailable lead and went on to record his 14th TT win and the first for Suzuki in over 10 years.

The last of the big major International Road Races came in August at the MCE Ulster Grand Prix, and only one name was on the lips of the thousands who witnessed this speed spectacular, that of JG Speedfit Kawasaki rider Peter Hickman.

The likeable Hickman made the event all his own by notching up three wins and setting a new absolute lap record for the Dundrod circuit at over 134mph.

Hickman was almost certainly denied a four-timer in the last race of the day, the Around a Pound UGP Superbike race, when he had to retire while leading.

This paved the way for Yorkshire's Dean Harrison to record his first Superbike race win at the event in breathtaking speeds, all of which where within the old lap record pace.

The 2017 Road Racing season ended at the Macau Grand Prix in the far east.

Remarkable it was Carrickfergus rider Glenn Irwin who upset the record books by being declared the race winner on his BeWiser Ducati after the meeting was cut short due to a serious incident during the race.

Unfortunately as all too often, the road racing season had its fair share of heartache with six riders losing their lives while dreaming the dream.

English rider Davey Lambert lost his life during a practice crash at the Isle of Man TT Races, while Dutch rider Jochem Van Den Hoek died during the Superstock TT Race.

Later on the same day, southern Irish rider Alan Bonner lost his life in a crash at the 33rd Milestone during a Senior TT practice lap.

At the Ulster Grand Prix, Jamie Hodson a newcomer from England, died after crashing out of the Dundrod 150 Challenge race while another English competitor Gavin Lupton died from injuries received after a racing accident in the same race.

At the end of season Macau Grand Prix, experienced road racer Daniel Hegarty died instantly after crashing out during the main race causing the event to be cut short.

No matter the memorable races and results of 2017, the year will again be remembered for the tragedy and heartbreak which scared the season in road racing.

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