Paul Gartland is hoping to defend his title as the most successful local rider when he returns to contest his home event on Saturday.

The Ederney rider took the chequered flag in the Lightweight Supersport race last year, and he is looking forward to getting back onto the Arney track this weekend.

“Any of the events that are close to home are always ones I look forward. It makes you try that wee bit harder, so we are definitely looking forward to it,” said Paul, who admitted he took some time to come to terms with the challenges of the Arney based circuit.

“It’s a good wee track. The main road heading out to the Five Points is all top gear stuff and it is very fast and flowing. On the flip side the little back road is very narrow and bumpy and more technical, so it has a little bit of everything. I didn’t like it the first couple of laps, because riding around at three quarters pace it was a bit skittish and bumpy, but once you put your head down and step it up it was a lot better.

“I really enjoyed it at the end and most of the other guys were the same. I prefer the smaller bumpier wee tracks over the bigger smoother ones so it suits me down to the ground.”

Paul had a difficult start to his season. He suffered a fractured wrist early in the season, but he is returning to full fitness and is hopeful he can force his way in amongst the front runners.

“I had a really big accident in testing at the start of the year and I broke my wrist,” he explained. “I have been carrying that injury ever since. The race after that was the Easter Races, the weekend after was Cookstown, then Tandragee then the North West 200 so I wasn’t able to get anything done with it. I just had to bite my lip and take painkillers and do the best I could with it, but I have been inside the top ten everywhere we have been so far.

“After the North West 200 I got the plaster on for a couple of weeks, and it came off before we went to Kells last weekend, so the wrist is nearly fixed again and I am feeling confident enough.”

Paul has the memory of last year’s victory to boost his confidence, and although there are a significant proportion of newcomers this year, Paul expects the challenge to come from those who raced over the course last year.

“Most of the top guys that were thereabouts did it last year because they knew it was going to be a round of the championship this year and they wanted to be hitting the ground running this year rather than turning up for the first time,” he said. “There will be a lot more at it this year and some of the smaller classes will definitely swell in numbers. Most of the guys were there last year, but a lot of the other guys that didn’t go are probably regretting it now.”