BY MARTIN WALSH
A MONDELLO Park Supersport champion in 2011 at 23 years of age, life in motorsport was well on track for Ballinhassig’s Sean Hurley, who had a great desire to succeed in World Superbikes, the pinnacle of motorcycle racing.
In late November of the same year Sean, on the whim of his mum Mairead, decided to write his bucket list. Not surprisingly, it was ambitious. It was the stuff of dreams, but for Sean, the sky was the limit.
Naturally, much of the list revolved around motorcycling. ‘Getting super fit and fitter’ was also on his horizon, but then that’s always a priority of top sportspeople. Being a Grand Prix rider, winner, World Superbike rider and winner, featured prominently on that same list.
For Sean, they were all possible achievements, not just targets.
Sadly, two nights later in appalling weather conditions he lost his life in a tragic road accident near his home in Rigsdale. The tragedy numbed the community that joined his parents, Dave and Mairead, and sisters, Catriona and Jacqui, in grieving his loss. So too did a large circle of friends.
The sense of loss was copper-fastened as Sean’s family together with a close network of friends set about completing that bucket list. Fast-forward to October 2018 and Team #109 became the first-ever Republic of Ireland motorcycle team to win a British Championship title.
That day in Brands Hatch was the culmination of many of the qualities that were part of Sean’s DNA as Northern Ireland’s Eunan McGlinchey took the title.
Sean’s father Dave tells the story.
‘Firstly, we wanted to do something to honour Sean, we wanted to establish a type of Young Rider Development Fund. We had money in the kitty that we had gathered and we reckoned if we did the #109 Award, a type of academy to acknowledge young, U23 Irish talent, it would be in Sean’s memory,’ Dave said.
Dave smiles when describing the trophy for the #109 award.
‘We had it made from an engine that Sean had, we had spent a fortune on the same engine but it blew on Sean within ten minutes. Another racer and friend of Sean’s, Declan Swanton, manufactured the trophy from the engine.’
That scheme lasted for about three seasons but Dave and the others had reservations.
‘We felt it wasn’t enough, we wanted to do more.’
Dave along with team manager Paul Tobin decided to take in a round of the KTM Championship in England. Paul opined: ‘We looked at a few riders. We went over for one round, we rented a bike to give us an idea of the whole scenario and costings and all the rest of it. Kevin Keyes from Offaly was on the bike. In the first race he lost out by 6/1000 of a second and he won the next race by a country mile. There was no turning back.’
Paul added: ‘We bought the bike from KTM and I think the cost the first year was probably around £10,000.’
Certainly, the bucket list was taking shape and Team #109 was very much on the move and, in the process, promoting young Irish talent. In 2018 the team enjoyed success.
‘It wasn’t easy but it proved fruitful in the end – Kevin, who had a special bond with Sean, finished in the top five in the Stock Championship and Eunan won the Junior Supersport Championship at the first attempt,’ said Dave.
It was a proud day for Team #109, who were doing things in their own way and earning respect along the way. It was something that Sean Hurley would have been proud of as McGlinchey, a mechanic with the VW dealership Edwin May in Coleraine, fitted the team like the proverbial glove.
From Aughadowey in County Derry, McGlinchey is highly regarded and is tipped for stardom. Following the Junior Supersport Championship success, the team stepped up to 600s where McGlinchey was fourth in the 2019 British Superstock 600cc Championship.
As their stock rose in the paddock, so too did support and Team #109 enjoyed backing from Kawasaki allowing them to run Curtis Trimble from Belfast and James McManus from Randalstown (Antrim) on 400’s.
This year, Team #109 has even more ambitious plans and when sport resumes they will be in the World Superbike paddock competing in the Supersport 300 FIM World Championship. That series is dubbed as ‘the sensational feeder series to Superbike World Championship.’ McGlinchey will be aboard the No 66 Kawasaki Ninja 400.
The transition is huge in terms of logistics that are now been overseen by Mairead Hurley. Team #109 had looked at possibilities of continuing to race in the British Championship but opted to concentrate on Supersport 300. However, depending on the programme of races, it may be possible to have a presence in the British series later in the year – subject to funding.
Team manager Paul Tobin gave an insight into the finances.
‘The cost of running the team in the Supersport 300 is within the €80,000 to €100,000 bracket,’ he said.
‘Kawasaki have come onboard and that is a big help but we are still seeking new sponsors to add to the likes of MMD Construction, LiftRite.ie, Kinsale Hotel & Spa and EMS Copiers. Cork Motorcycle and Vintage Club also help out.’
To have an Irish team along the World Superbike paddock ticks off another of Sean’s items on that bucket list. The team also includes Colin Draper from Grange, who was a friend of Sean’s and is the mechanic with Team #109 since the very start. The team’s technical support (crew chief) is Scott Thompson.
It looks as if the championship round in Donington (July 3rd) could mark the beginning of their season – nobody knows for certain – but Team #109 remains focussed.
‘We will put the best bike possible under Eunan and we hope that will be good enough to win. We are not going there to make up numbers but at the same time we are under no illusions, it’s World Championship racing,’ Paul Tobin concluded.