Racing returned to Oliver’s Mount, Scarborough last weekend with the Steve Henshaw International Gold Cup back after a two-year absence. It was a weekend of contrasting weather conditions that saw Lee Johnston walk away with the prestigious trophy.
The Ashcourt Racing rider put in a faultless ride in treacherous conditions on Sunday, which threatened to curtail proceedings at the famous 2.43-mile venue, and having led from the start he eventually took the chequered flag at the end of the eight laps by three seconds from Mike Norbury with David Jackson taking third. Brad Vicars, Joey Thompson and Joe Ackroyd completed the top six.
Johnston became just the third rider from Northern Ireland to lift the International Gold Cup, following in the footsteps of Ryan Farquhar and Michael Dunlop, and joined legendary names such as Barry Sheene, Giacomo Agostini and Carl Fogarty on the trophy which was first awarded in 1950.
Sunday’s race schedule differed greatly from Saturday’s action around the woodland circuit when the North Yorkshire venue saw the large crowd lining the fences bathed in sunshine.
It was Johnston who came of on top in the feature Supersport 600cc race as he brought his Yamaha YZF-R6 home ahead of Norbury once more, this time by the reduced margin of 1.6s.
Now based near Halifax, Johnston sat in third place in the early stages of the race as Jackson set the pace ahead of Norbury but once the Ulsterman moved to the front at half race distance, he soon pulled away.
With the fastest lap of the race, 1m50.766s, more than half a second quicker than anyone else, the 30-year old was able to ease off on the eighth and final lap with Norbury maintaining station in second.
In the dry, sunny conditions, Vicars came through for third ahead of fellow Manx GP podium finisher Stephen Parsons as Jackson slipped back to fifth ahead of Ackroyd.
Johnston also took second in the Classic Superbike race after starting from the back of the grid on Phil Reed’s RC45 Honda and overhauling 20 riders! By the time he’d moved up to second, David Bell had opened up a substantial lead and he took a comfortable win on his OW01 Yamaha.
Circuit debutante Paul Jordan was on course for second place before he was forced to retire the Mistral Racing Kawasaki in the closing stages and that allowed Pete Boast to take third ahead of Daniel Ingham and Barry Furber.
The closest race of the day came in the Lightweight encounter as Ian Lougher, Dominic Herbertson and Joey Thompson fought tooth and nail throughout the eight laps.
Vicars ran with them at the beginning before retiring and although Herbertson and Thompson tried all they could to find a way by Lougher, the Welshman held on to extend his record as the most successful rider ever around the Oliver’s Mount circuit.
Julian Tillotson and Justin Collins won the Supersport ‘B’ and ‘C’ finals respectively with Phil Harvey coming out on top in the 400cc race after Thompson retired whilst John Lowther/Tom Christie got the better of Conrad Harrison/Andrew Winkle in a shortened Sidecar race.
The heavy rain forecast for Sunday unfortunately proved to be accurate and it was 12.30pm before any action could take place but the organisers did a sterling job to ensure eight races took place – one for each class – with the marshals deserving special praise for enduring the elements on an extremely wet day.
The sidecars started the action and after missing Saturday’s races, Lee Crawford/Scott Hardie got the better of Lowther/Christie by 5.2s to pick up the Ian Bell Trophy, awarded by Ian’s son Carl, for their efforts.
Aside from the Gold Cup, Johnston sat out the remainder of the day and that allowed Norbury to take the spoils in the Supersport A race, with the Spada Racing rider a much deserved winner after strong rides all weekend.
He beat Vicars into second as Don Gilbert took third and there were first time winners in the ‘B’ and ‘C’ races with Daniel Forbes and Richard Telford taking their maiden victories at the Mount.
Rain wasn’t going to prevent veteran Lougher from taking to the grid and he duly wrapped up the double in the Lightweight race as he took a staggering 140th victory at the venue with Vicars and Herbertson completing the podium as the rain continued to fall.
Bell repeated his Classic Superbike victory from Saturday, Furber taking second on this occasion as Boast again finished third and it was Mark Purslow who got the verdict in the 400cc race with Ingham in second and Newcomers Manx GP winner Andy Jackson the first of the Moto 3 riders in third.
“It’s obviously a real pleasure to win the International Gold Cup and when you look at some of the riders who’ve won it before, I’m in some good company! I never realised only Ryan and Michael had won it before from Northern Ireland so be just the third rider to win it is something to be proud of. Conditions were far from ideal but I managed to get the lead off the line and build up a bit of a gap which I was able to control after that.
“We were actually doing some pretty good lap times given how wet it was but the bike was working really well and the team did a mega job all weekend. It was nice to get a win on the Yamaha in both the wet and the dry and I also really enjoyed the race on the RC45 as it’s such a lovely bike to ride. Despite the weather on Sunday, it was a very enjoyable meeting and it’s nice to end the domestic season with another International win so a big thanks to the entire Ashcourt Racing team for everything throughout 2019.”
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