Kneen wins controversial main race on Cookstown 100 debut

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Manxman Dan Kneen, making his debut on the roads for the Cookstown BE Racing team, took a controversial victory at the weekend in the main race at the opening Irish road race of the season, the team’s home KDM Hire Cookstown 100, winning from Tyco Suzuki’s William Dunlop.

With small grids necessitating the race to be run in multiple groups, Kneen was able to come from the second group after qualifying 11th, to win by only 0.3 on corrected time. However, with the Tyco team saying they had been unable to hear timing announcements on the ‘antiquated’ system used, they were unable to give signals to Dunlop alerting him to the closing Kneen.

Dunlop said afterwards: William Dunlop: “I’m obviously disappointed to lose out on a race win that I felt I had well covered. When you take the chequered flag you expect to be the race winner, but I’m not a bad loser and rules are rules whether you agree with them or not. We started the weekend off well with podiums on the GSX-R600 and GSX-R1000 Superbike. The boys have worked really hard this past few weeks to help me feel comfortable in the team and on all machinery with the various set-ups, so I was gutted not to be able to give them the Cookstown 100 feature Superbike race win. Taking the positives, it does set us up well for the North West 200 and I think this weekend we have proved that we can be competitive and have plenty to look forward to.”

Team boss Philip Neil was more vocal, adding: “William was unaware that he was battling with Dan in the second group, and once at the front of the field with a comfortable gap, he slowed to keep things safe, only to find he’d lost the race by three-tenths of a second. Overall we are very pleased with William’s performance this weekend but it is a real shame he had to be denied his first ever Superbike victory for us by an out-dated racing system that surely has no place in modern racing.”

Despite the controversy, though, Kneen remained upbeat with his first win on the team’s GSX-R1000, saying after the race: “It’s been a dream debut at Cookstown. I knew I had it in me and it was time to prove it to everyone else. I’ve managed to prove to everyone that my injury setbacks were just that, a setback, but now it’s time to go forward and show what I’m made of. It was a great race, and I knew I had to push hard throughout against some outstanding opposition – but job done. I just can’t wait to get back on a bike for my next race now.”

In the other classes, Michael Dunlop took his first wins of the year on the MD Racing Honda supersport bike and Kawasaki supertwin bike, but had a less successful day on his BMW debut, with a mechanical in race one ruling him out of both races.

Simon Patterson

By Simon Patterson

MotoGP and road racing reporter, photographer, videographer