Thomas Maxwell in action at Cookstown 2020. Photo: Tommy Vennard

Maxwell improves set-up to score podium

Taking on an experienced mechanic who knows how to set up a racing bike has made a huge difference to Thomas Maxwell in this strange 2020 season.

The Mullingar man finished on the podium in the Open Race at the KDM Hire Cookstown 100 in September, and he was disappointed that the superbike race that was to take place later in the day was called off due to the weather conditions.

The Open Race race was to be over eight laps, but it was red-flagged twice after incidents involving Adam McLean and Stephen McKnight, and though Thomas made two great starts, on the third one, he didn’t get away as well.

He said there was a problem with the clutch and he could feel it slipping for the first half lap, during which Derek Sheils and Michael Sweeney in first and second, built up a lead over him, which they maintained to the finish.

He did well to hang on for the podium place, but was more pleased with the progress he has made on the set-up side of his racing.

“I was out in Kirkistown a week before for a track race,” Thomas told the Westmeath Examiner. “I had done really nothing, and I thought I had better get a few miles, so I did that Irish Superbike round and got a seventh at that.

“I was happy with that as I hadn’t sat on the bike all year, and I’m not really a short circuit rider, but I’ll be looking into that a bit more because it’s a great way to set up the bike.”

Thomas says he has been “there or thereabouts” on the lap times, but what made a difference to him Kirkistown and Cookstown is getting expert help in setting up the bike.

“I was second in qualifying at Cookstown. I was confident enough going up there, I had a good feeling, he put in good setting in the bike, I just felt very good.”

The man giving the help is Eoghan Tolan, who was mechanic for the late Meath racer, Alan Bonner, who was killed at the Isle of Man TT races in 2017.

Eoghan’s advice following discussions between rider and mechanic at Cookstown was to change parts of the set-up and use a different tyre on the bike, and Thomas went from having third fastest time to fastest time in practice, then second in qualifying.

“He’s making a huge different for me, even for my head," said Thomas. “The last few years, I’d be just getting on the bike, I’d never even touch it, I’d just ride it the way it was, and if it felt good at the time, I’d go well – and if not, that was it.”

He says he set a 1min 27s in qualifying for Cookstown, his quickest time around that track, and he took a further 3s off that in the race.

“I was looking forward to the second race, as that bike of mine is very good in the wet, but it was cancelled,” said Thomas.

Bike racing is expensive, so Thomas has a number of sponsors and supporters he wants to acknowledge, including Snips Barbers, J Connelly and Sons, Doyne’s Bar, Cotter Motorcycles, DLS Engineering, Vinny’s Barbers, Eagle Motors, and Damien Moran, plus Sean, Eoghan and John “for their help over the [Cookstown] weekend – I couldn’t do it without them”, he said.

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