Irish National road racing Superbike champion Derek Sheils took the chance to gain some track time during a test at Kirkistown this week on John Burrows’ Cookstown B.E. Racing machines.
Sheils is entering his second season with the Dungannon-based team after impressing in 2016.
The Dublin rider is gearing up for the first roads meeting of the year at the Around-A-Pound Tandragee 100 from April 21-22, where Honda Racing’s Guy Martin will make his debut on the new Fireblade SP2 Superstock machine as he returns to the event for the first time since 2005.
In cold and breezy conditions, Sheils clocked up the laps on Burrows’ Suzuki GSX-R1000 Superbike, Kawasaki Supertwin and Honda CBR600RR Supersport machines at the Co Down circuit.
Burrows has also added the all-new Suzuki GSX-R1000R Superstock machine to his stable and intends to run a second Supertwin machine along with the ’stocker at selected National events.
Popular Irishman Sheils excelled during a difficult year for the Northern Ireland team in 2016, with the death of Malachi Mitchell-Thomas at the North West 200 last May leaving everyone involved with Burrows Engineering Racing stunned.
After some soul-searching and with the encouragement of Malachi’s father, Kevin, team owner Burrows decided to continue running the team for the remainder of the season and Sheils delivered success on the Suzuki Superbike, clinching the Ulster and Irish Superbike championships and the Irish Supertwin title on the Kawasaki ER6.
He also finished on the podium in the Supertwin class with a fine runner-up result at the Ulster Grand Prix at Dundrod to seal his maiden international rostrum.
Looking ahead to the new season, which commences with next weekend’s Tandragee 100 in North Armagh – an upbeat Burrows is confident the southern Irish rider will build on his performances in 2017.
“Derek has stayed with us this year and I feel he has more to give the sport. He’s a very level-headed lad and I think he will put on a good show for us at the North West 200 next month,” Burrows said.
“We know how strong he is at the National road races but he’s more than capable of results at the internationals as well.
“It would be nice to push for another international win and Derek was on the podium at the Ulster Grand Prix last year, so we weren’t far away.”
For Sheils, his main priority this year is to climb the leaderboard at the international meetings and he is targeting top ten finishes as his main objective at the TT in June.
“Winning three titles last year was good but the most satisfying thing for me was my improved international performances and my 131mph lap at the Ulster,” he said.
“This year my focus will be on getting near the sharp end at the internationals. At the TT I’m aiming for top ten finishes but with the quality in every race I know that won’t be easy.
“I know my package will be good enough but sometimes at the TT you need a bit of luck as well.”