Reigning Irish Champion Gary Gibson won the prestigious John Donnelly memorial for a staggering third year in a row but Stuart Edmonds pushed him all the way at Downpatrick.
In a cold, wet and windy start to the day Edmonds put the CCR Suzuki on pole but Gibson was right behind in second on the Bannside Pallets Suzuki.
In race one a constant drizzle left a wet hillside circuit slippery and rutty leaving riders facing a very tricky circuit. Edmonds nailed the holeshot and began to pull away, Gibson got himself into second and both riders pulled away from third place Richard Bird as Wayne Garrett was left mired in the pack.
Edmonds was superb out front and was really flowing round the corners but Gibson started to pick the pace up mid race and was keeping Edmonds under pressure. The duo were way, way out front and with two laps to go Gibson was on the back wheel of Edmonds but then he fell foul of the big ruts and tipped over.
That meant Edmonds could relax and took a very impressive win from Gibson with Richard Bird a distant third.
The second moto took place under better conditions. No rain and a drying track made the pace faster and this time it was Gibson with the holeshot. Edmonds got into second but Bird was on the gas in race two and passed Edmonds relegating the Dubliner to third with Garrett on his tail. This let Gibson get a small gap as Bird, Edmonds and Garrett fought over second.
Edmonds started to regroup and picked up the pace and caught back up to Bird as Garrett started to lose touch with the battle for second.Edmonds finally made his move on Bird but Bird was not giving up and fighting back when he had a big crash on the bottom section of the track.
But then the race unfortunately had to be red flagged giving Gibson the win from Edmonds and Garrett.Thankfully Bird was sore but able to walk away however he would not contest the third and final moto.
It was Gibson v Edmonds in a winner takes all third moto and the pressure was on!
The start was going to be all important and it was Gibson who got the holeshot with Edmonds battling Garrett for second. Edmonds wasted no time in getting in second, he was on the charge and knew he needed to win the race.
It was Gibson first with Edmonds chasing him but Gibson was not being rattled and stayed clean through the deep ruts leaving Edmonds with no option but to lay it all on the line for the win.
Unfortunately Edmonds pushed just too hard and slid out giving Gibson the gap he was looking for. Edmonds remounted but had just lost too much time and Gibson took the victory and the trophy despite a late race charge from Edmonds.
Both riders congratulated each other at the end of the race realising just how hard both had been pushing to get the win.
2013 Ulster and Irish champ Gibson might just have improved once more this year and Edmonds looked better than he has so far this season, admitting it was the most fun he has had on the bike all season.
It quite a duel between the two Suzuki men and you have to think that racing the British championship has helped their speed so far as Wayne Garrett, not doing all the British round this year, looked a bit race rusty back in third on the KTM.
- Gary Gibson
- Stuart Edmonds
- Wayne Garrett
Report and Photo: Jonathan McCready