Maxwell third in superbikes after year of strong progress

Photo shows, Thomas Maxwell (left) celebrating his second place at the East Coast Racing Festival with Michael Brown and Michael Sweeney.

Thomas flying high at the Armoy Road Races. Photo: Andy McMahon

A year of solid results and strong progress earned Thomas Maxwell third place in the Irish Superbike Championship this year.

The Mullingar road racer has been a regular on the podium since the opening round of this year’s series at Cookstown in April, and he is starting to make plans for the 2020 season, when he hopes to be out in some of the other classes as well as the big bikes.

“I started with a strong finish in Cookstown, fourth in the superbikes, and the same again the week after in Tandragee, fourth – in behind Derek [McGee] and the top boys,” Thomas told the Westmeath Examiner. “I was nipping at their heels the whole year.”

Explaining his progression, Thomas said: “This was my first proper year on the superbikes and I was right there. I was in the support class before and won a few races there. Then I had a 600, but never really did anything on that – it was a bad bike.

“Then I just got a good bike last year and it all came together. It’s a 2016 ZX10, and I ran it again this year.”

Thomas’s bike is a superstock rather than a fully modified superbike, thought like many racers, he finds it competitive in the top class.

He said it carried him to the podium regularly from the Kells Road Races on this year. There he had two third place finishes, just behind Derek Sheils and Michael Sweeney in the Open Championship race, and behind Sheils and Paul Jordan in the Grand Final.

At the Enniskillen races, Thomas says he could “have had two handy wins but the bike let me down”.

“I was leading the first race and I broke down, and I was leading the second one till I got passed on the last corner, so I had one second in Enniskillen.

“Walderstown was the next one, and that was gearing up to be probably my best weekend yet. In qualifying I was third, only a second covering me, Derek and Derek Sheils, and I finished fourth in the first race."

The meeting was then called off after an accident in which Darren Keys from County Antrim was killed.

Like all road racers, Thomas was able to put the tragedy of the fatal accident behind him, as he went on to record further strong results at Faugheen (a fourth and a fifth) and at a new meeting, Glanmire in Cork.

“At Glanmire, I was third in the first race, but slid off in the second – it started raining halfway through the race and I lost the front. I didn’t hurt myself, but I hurt the bike and I missed the Ulster Grand Prix.”

Thomas’s season ended with a pair of fine second places at the East Coast Racing Festival, at Skerries, in early September.

“It was a good year,” said Thomas. “I finished third in the Irish and Ulster Superbike Championships – Derek Sheils won the Irish one, Sweeney second and I was third.”

Thomas has “a few things in the pipeline for 2020”, including the possibility of “a good 650 ride, if I can come up with the budget”.

He is also hoping to have a new 600, and he will keep his current superstock bike as “it’s still pretty good”.

So next year, there is a good chance he will be out in three different classes, and he hopes “to do the three big ones (the North West, the Isle of Man TT and the Ulster GP) and all the nationals – that’s the plan anyway”.

In the meantime, Thomas will be out on this motocross bike to maintain his fitness over the winter, and he has a number of people to thank for their help and support in getting him to where he is now.

“I’d like to thank Cotter Motorcycles, An Rí Dubh Road Racing Supporters Club, John Connelly and Sons Construction, Paudie Green, Damien and James Moran, Buddy and Debbie Philips, Stephen Leavy, Amy, my girlfriend, and Joey, Ian, Anthony, Liam, Cian and John – it wouldn’t be possible without them and everybody else who supports us. It’s hard to remember everyone who helped throughout the year, but I would like to thank them all.”

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