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Motorcycling: Review of 2018

Thousands of mourners gathered in County Antrim for the funeral of road racer William Dunlop. The Ballymoney rider died after a crash during practice at the Skerries race meeting. Alan Lewis - Photopress. Picture by Justin Kernoghan.
Willis Marshall

THE 2018 motorcycling season will live long in the memories of many none more so than those in Northern Ireland which saw ecstasy turn to tragedy, in a year where hearts and records were both broken.

The year started off in fine fashion for reigning World Superbike Champion Jonathan Rea from Ballyclare who began where he left off, winning the opening two rounds at Phillip Island in Australia.

Rea's domination drove him to the World crown for a fourth successive time, to equal the all-time wins record of 17 race wins in a season.

Rea was simply unstoppable and he now sits as the most successful rider ever in World Superbike history, and aiming to re-write the books in 2019 by taking a fifth title in as many years.

History was also made in the Supersport 300 World Championships when Spanish lady Ana Carrasco became the first woman in history to win a World Motorcycle Championship.

There was only one name again in World Motogp in 2018, that of Spain's Marc Marquez who like Rea, dominated the 2018 Championships on his Repsol Honda, taking his fifth Motogp World title and his seventh World title in his career.

Marquez took the title with Andrea Dovizioso second and fans' favourite Valentino Rossi third in what was an drama-filled series.

On the road-racing scene at International level in 2018, one name stood out way above the rest and that came in the shape of the Burton-upon-Trent rider, Peter Hickman.

Hickman was simply miles above the rest with the Smith's BMW rider notching up wins at the North West 200, Isle of Man TT, Ulster Grand Prix.

And just last month he added the Macau Grand Prix to his wins tally to take the mantle of winning at all the big international races in one season.

Hickman also set about recording the faster-ever lap on the TT circuit in the Isle of Man in 2018, scorching around the 37 and 3/4 mile circuit in a time of 16m 42.778s a speed of 135.452mph.

Carrickfergus rider Alastair Seeley had another memorable North West 200 in 2018, the Carrick rider taking another hat-trick of race wins.

Fellow Carrickfergus rider Glenn Irwin dominated the NW200 Superbike races with a fine brace of race wins on the BeWiser Ducati.

The Isle of Man TT Races basked in a mini heatwave with that man Hickman stealing all the plaudits.

Ballymoney rider Michael Dunlop shot up to the all-time place of third in the most wins around the TT Circuit when he won the Lightweight TT race.

He also secured his debut win for the Tyco BMW Team when he took the chequered flag in the Superbike TT Race.

At the Ulster Grand Prix in August, it was unfortunately plagued by delays and the meeting abandoned after just three races on the Saturday.

Peter Hickman was the man on form in the races that did run, taking a brace of wins along with Manxman Conor Cummins and Bradford Dean Harrison earning wins apiece over the two days racing.

Mullingar rider Derek Magee was the main man on the national scene in Ireland with Magee taking three Irish Championships in a year that saw riders numbers dwindle on the grids at the Irish races.

In the British Superbike Championships, Derbyshire rider Leon Haslam was crowned British Superbike Champion after his main rival in Shane Byrne was ruled out mid-season with serious back injuries.

Carrickfergus rider Glenn Irwin took a fine third place in the Championship standings at the end of the season and will move into Haslem's Kawasaki Team in 2019.

Co Derry rider Eunan McGlinchey was the star of the British Championships in 2018.

The Aghadowey rider grabbed the Supersport Junior Championship and he will go far in 2019.

Clogher's Keith Farmer took the British Superstock title for the Tyco BMW Team and the Tyrone rider now moves into the Superbike ranks.

Randalstown's Gerard Kinghan roared to the Ulster Superbike Championships with Alastair Kirk from Dromara pushing him all the way.

Dutch rider Jeffrey Herlings topped the title in the World Motocross MXGP class in 2018 with Spain's Jorge Pardo taking the title in the MX2 CLASS IN 2018, in a year that saw Motocross take a huge step up the ranking ladder.

Unfortunately yet again, motorcycling suffered heartbreaking tragedies in 2018, road racing recording four fatalities.

Manxman Dan Kneen, who had been drafted into the Moneymore-based Team of Tyco BMW, lost his life during a practice session at this year's Isle of Man TT Races. Kneen's death stunned the motorcycling world and cast a heavy cloud of grief over the event.

Four days later, that same heartache was revisited when Scottish rider Adam Lyons suffered fatal injuries during the Supersport 600 race at the TT Races.

The sport was still reeling from these tragedies when just four short weeks later Ballymoney rider William Dunlop lost his life after he crashed out at high speed while practising at the Skerries road races near Dublin.

William Dunlop's death sent shockwaves all over the world and still, even today, many people are still finding it hard to take this huge loss.

William's death left many involved in road racing, competitors and officials, contemplating continuing in this high-risk sport.

In August, at the Ulster Grand Prix, long-time friend and racer in Ireland, French rider Fabrice Miguet, lost his life while racing in the Superstock race.

Miguet was a seasoned campaigner with a wealth of knowledge and his passing and the other tragic deaths, marked 2018 as one of the darkest periods in road racing for many many years.

In just over two months time, the racing will begin again at Phillip Island with the opening round of theWorld Superbike Championships. All eyes will be on our own Jonathan Rea, but all of our minds will be on those we have left behind in 2018.

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