James Cowton wins Duke Road Race Rankings crown

James Cowton in action at Oliver's Mount in 2014
James Cowton in action at Oliver's Mount in 2014
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Kilham’s James Cowton has become the first English winner of the Auto 66 Club’s Duke Road Race rankings series

Cowton, 22, will collect the coveted Geoff Duke Trophy at the Auto 66 Dinner & Prize Presentation on Saturday at the Holiday Inn, York.

He is the 13th winner of the series since its inception in 2002.

Cowton has had a stellar season on the roads, his third year racing ‘between the hedges’ amassing six race victories during the year, at Oliver’s Mount, Billown and Dundrod, where he took his first international race win at the Ulster Grand Prix.

His first victory of the year was at the Blackford’s Pre-TT Classic races in the Post Classic, race where he also set a new lap record, following that with a double at the Barry Sheene Festival at his home circuit, Oliver’s Mount, before taking another double win at the Dundrod 150 Road Races.

Add in a further nine second and 13 third places out of the 45 races he finished, only three were out of the top six while setting seven fastest laps

Cowton is only the sixth recipient of the unique award, which he will receive from Geoff’s son Peter Duke, Managing Director of Duke Marketing, who was instrumental in setting up what is now considered to be an accurate barometer of the most successful riders of the season who are dedicated to ‘between the hedges’ road racing, by including the less well-known national events alongside the world-famous international meetings.

The inaugural winner in 2002, was Northern Ireland-based Welshman Ian Lougher who went on to collect the award again in 2005 and 2006.

Manxman Conor Cummins took the honour in 2007 and last year’s winner was Ballymoney’s Michael Dunlop.

Fellow Northern Ireland rider Ryan Farquhar first won the Duke Rankings in 2003, retaining the title in 2004, missing out until 2008, he then had a secure hold on the series each year up to and including 2012 - five consecutive years, making seven times in all.

The 2014 Duke Road Race Rankings was held over 25 rounds commencing at the Spring National Road Races at the North Yorkshire venue of Oliver’s Mount in mid-April and concluded mid-November at the Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix.

Cowton was third in the table after the opening round and throughout the season maintained a position in the top six, slotting into second after the Ulster Grand Prix climbing on to the top rung after the Steve Henshaw International Gold Cup Road Races, the penultimate round, the final round at Macau un-affecting the top three positions.

The top six riders in 2014 were: 1st James Cowton 1858 points, 2nd Ivan Lintin 1817, 3rd Dean Harrison 1799, 4th Michael Dunlop 1591, 5th Dan Kneen 1408, 6th Guy Martin 1372.

Peter Duke said:”Another thrilling season with 479 point-scoring riders underlines the increasing popularity of real roads racing and I am extremely proud that the Duke Series plays its part in the sport.

“It’s often thought Irish riders dominate road racing, but this year’s result’s showcase the talent and enthusiasm for ‘closed roads’ in the rest of the British Isles. Long may it continue!”