McGee planning break from racing to make full recovery

McGee planning break from racing to make full recovery

Photo shows, Derek McGee lining up on the grid at the Armoy road races on July 26 and 27. Photo: Paul Lavery; paul@laveryphotography.com

Derek McGee has recorded several race wins since his crash at the Isle of Man TT in June, but he says he is not fully fit, and will likely take a break from competition for the rest of the season.

“I still feel rusty on the bike,” Derek told the Westmeath Examiner last week. “Even the fitness – because for those few weeks I wasn’t able to train properly, so I’m struggling a bit, more so on the bigger bikes.

“That’s why I chose not to do the Ulster Grand Prix. I’m not back to the level where I want to be fitness-wise. I still don’t feel 100 per cent comfortable on the bike. As a team we decided to take the rest of the year off, just get fully fit for next year and be ready to go, and not be still struggling at Christmas to get fitness back.

“That’s the aim – to get properly fit for next year and give it a good go again.”

Derek’s first outing after the TT was at Walderstown, where he qualified on pole for each class he entered. Sadly the racing was called off that day when County Antrim competitor Darren Keys lost his life in an accident.

The Mullingar man also qualified on pole for every class he entered at the Faugheen races on July 20 and 21. Derek said: “It was a good day all round, but I feel like I’m trying harder now – that when I wasn’t injured, it was coming that bit easier.

“You feel like you’re riding harder even though your times are back a bit, you’re slower than what you were doing.”

Despite feeling that way, Derek was competitive and lost the first superbike race by just a fraction of a second. “I led from the start till the last corner of the last lap – and I just fell asleep and Derek Sheils got by me, and it’s not a corner you normally can get past on.

“It was my own fault, I must’ve dozed off or something, and Derek just got the better of me. There wasn’t much in it, something like a 100th of a second across the line. I’d say if I’d had another 20 feet, I would have won it. He got past me, but I got a good run out of the corner and I was dragging by him.

“It was a good race but that was a bit annoying as I had done all the hard work and lost it in the last corner.”

Sheils also won the last superbike race, even though McGee led till the last lap. “I had a braking problem and I went wide on a hairpin. Derek Sheils nipped under me and there was no way to get by on the last lap,” he said.

Derek also recorded wins on Moto3 (“Francesco’s bike is brilliant and I just kept it steady”) and supersport, but had a mechanical failure in the supertwin race, something that happened again, on a different bike, at the Armoy races on July 26 and 27.

“It was a crankshaft failure, it’s common in the 650s, the only weak point on them. They’re making so much more power than what they were originally designed for.

“I was on two different bikes, but unfortunately it was the same again, and that’s the first time in two years. We’ve found our limit with the horsepower, we can’t go much more.”

At Armoy, Derek made fantastic starts in all his races and won two supersport races, one of them by 0.002 seconds, and the Moto3 and was third and fourth in the two superbike races. There was a bizarre finish to one of the supersport races, as after the chequered flag, Paul Jordan’s bike hit the rear of McGee’s. The result stood, McGee first and Jordan second.

“On the first big bike, there a bit of a problem and we gradually fell back, so we brought out the second bike for the grand final and it was definitely a lot stronger. But I was lapping a second a lap slower than last year. I’m ok on the first few laps, it’s down to the fitness, I just haven’t the strength at the minute, if you’re off the big bike any length you notice, it.”

Derek was awarded Man of the Meeting at both Faugheen and Armoy, though at the latter he said the title should have gone to Allister McSorley, the travelling marshal and doctor who was seriously injured in an accident at the 2018 Armoy races.

Though he is paralysed from the waist down, Allister has made a strong recovery in the 12 months, and on this year’s Armoy race day he made one of this targets – to complete the lap he started last year that was cut short by the accident.

If you wonder what a split second gap at the end of a race looks like, you can just about see it on this video clip from the BBC.

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