Record breaking crowds basked in glorious sunshine throughout the Kennedy International North West 200 week, and in sharp contrast to the 2005 event, temperatures soared on race day.
Sadly, both practice evenings were cut short, with some classes having to be abandoned due to incidents, but despite a lack of good set-up time after both qualifying evenings the Team Black Horse riders, Lougher and Buckley had qualified their machines respectably.
Hampered all week by a severe cold, it was plain that eight times North West 200 winner, Lougher was decidedly under par, and although getting his trademark flying start in the first Superbike race of the day sponsored by Dewalt Performance Tools, on board the Stobart Motorsport Honda, despite his best efforts it was all the Welshman could do to hang on to finish in 5th place. Meanwhile team mate Mark Buckley was forced to retire on Lap 2.
Dewalt Performance Tools - Superbike Race 1:
- 1st: Plater, Honda; 26.21.927
- 2nd: Anstey, Suzuki; -0.373
- 3rd: McGuinness, Honda; -5.712
- 4th: Donald, Honda; -30.890
- 5th: Lougher, Honda; - 31.946
Next up was the first of two Supersport 600 races, the class that historically provides the closest racing, and certainly this years supersport races lived up to their expectations. It was a close fought contest over five laps of the nine mile "Triangle" circuit, Lougher eventually claiming 3rd place to take his first rostrum finish of 2006 on the Black Horse Motorcycle Finance Honda CBR600RR. In a class where the depth of field is always phenominal Buckley battled hard to finish in 21st place out of fifty one starters.
Club SOI Portrush Supersport Race 1:
- 1st: Anstey, Suzuki; 23.08380
- 2nd: Shand, Honda; -1.766
- 3rd: Lougher,Honda; -5.119
- 4th: Easton, Ducati; -14.054
- 21st: Buckley,Honda; - 1.09.325
Race 4 was the 1000cc Superstock race, with both Ian Lougher and Mark Buckley again out on the familiar purple liveried Black Horse Motorcycle Finance Fireblade machines. It was all action at the front with a blistering pace being set in this, essentially production based class. Despite his best efforts Lougher finished in 7th place while Buckley suffered a high side and crashed out unhurt on Lap 2.
CP Hire Limited Superstock Race:
- 1st: Anstey, Suzuki; 22.25.575
- 2nd: Porter, Yamaha; - 0.497
- 3rd: Hutchinson, Kawasaki; - 1.031
- 4th: Martin, Yamaha; -14.694
- 7th Lougher, Honda; -21.031
The penultimate race of the day was the second and final superbike race sponsored by Black Horse Motorcycle Finance Limited. Unfortunately for Buckley, the damage sustained to the Fireblade in his earlier crash meant he would be a non starter, and with changes having been made to the Paul Bird Stobart Motorsport machine Lougher was hoping to improve on his earlier performance. Locked in a titanic battle for 4th position for the whole of the six laps, at the flag and with less than 2 seconds covering the 4th, 5th and 6th placed riders, at the finish Lougher took 6th spot.
Black Horse Motorcycle Finance Superbike Race 2:
- 1st: Plater, Honda; 26.04.975
- 2nd: Rutter, Honda; -2.571
- 3rd: McGuinness, Honda; -23.783
- 4th: Donald, Honda; -34.046
- 6th: Lougher, Honda; -36.272
The curtain came down on the 2006 Kennedy International North West 200 event with the second of two Supersport 600 races sponsored by the Ballymoney Council. For Lougher, what was thought to be a sticking throttle on the start line was to cause serious concern and with the technicians working frantically to cure the problem, it was only by fractions of a second that Lougher was permitted to complete the warm up lap, however the drama didn't end there. As the race got underway, Lougher took an early lead but the startline problem returned and disappointingly Ian was forced to retire the machine at the pits. Not withstanding his earlier tumble, Buckley was determined to make amends and rode well to take 17th slot.
Ballymoney Council Supersport Race 2:
- 1st: Hutchinson, Kawasaki; 23.04.098
- 2nd: Frost, Kawasaki; -1.311
- 3rd: Anstey, Suzuki; -1.721
- 4th: Seeley,Yamaha; -5.564
- 17th: Buckley,Honda; -1.02.951
Ian Lougher: " I have never been so happy to get to the end of a race meeting; I am absolutely exhausted. I began feeling ill at the beginning of the week and by Friday morning I was truly dog rough. I just have no strength or energy and particularly for the bigger bikes, which have so much power, you really need to be on top form to ride them to their full potential. But we got a 3rd place rostrum finish in the first supersport 600 race earlier in the day so that saved the day. It was bitterly disappointing having to retire from the final race of the day while in the leading group, but what we first thought was a sticking throttle, turned out to be a faulty throttle sensor.
I am disappointed with my performance in the Superbike class, but it was the first time I've raced the Stobart Motorsport machine and the guys that took the rostrum positions today are racing their superbikes in the British Championships week in week out, so I don't suppose it was too terrible all things considered. Losing valuble set-up time during practice probably cost us dear, but we made some changes in between races which resulted in an improved lap time in the second race, plus the alterations made the bike easier to ride. There is no doubt the Stobart Motorsport machine is a missile, and with a few more alterations to the suspension which should improve the handling further I'm confident the bike will be good for the TT. We have only ten days before we leave for the Isle of Man TT so I need to concentrate on getting back to full fitness."
Mark Buckley: "It was a huge shame I high sided exiting the start and finish chicane in the superstock race, I was going well and my lap times were proving that I could have finished well inside the top ten. I took a slightly different line that lap and think the rear tyre spun on the white line resulting in a high side. I was lucky to get away unhurt, except a few bruises, but I was fortunate to be able to make it out in the second supersport 600 race where I finished 17th, lapping faster than I achieved in the first 600 supersport race.
Team Black Horse are working well together and the Honda's have proved to be fast enough, I feel comfortable within the team and I hope that the base setting we established at the North West 200 will be a good starting point for the Isle of Man TT where I start as a newcomer."