It was a Dunlop day at the Vauxhall International North West 200 on Saturday as Michael Dunlop won the feature Superbike race on the Hawk/Motorrad BMW and his elder brother William won the other for Tyco Suzuki.
His second victory on in the CP Hire Superstock race plus three podiums in the Pirtek Superstock race, the EventServ Superbike race and the Anchor Complex Supertwin race during race week ensured Michael was also the recipient of the Man of the Meeting award.
“We came here with no time whatsoever on the bikes and we beat BSB riders like Alastair Seeley and Josh Brookes.” Michael smiled afterwards.
“We did it in the wet and in the dry today and this means that I have now won International road races on BMW’s, Kawasakis, Yamahas and Hondas.”
The day had started badly for the Ballymoney man after he finished a lowly fifth in the opening Milwaukee Supersport race, which was won by veteran Kiwi, Bruce Anstey on a Valvoline Padgett’s Honda. Anstey had benefited from a coming together by race leaders Lee Johnston (Pirtek Honda) and Alastair Seeley (Mar-Train Yamaha) at Metropole corner that saw both of them crash out of the race without injury.
“I think I got out of bed on the right side this morning.” the 45 year old laughed after taking the win.
“My 600 is as fast as anything out there and I had lost out to Johnston and Seeley when I overshot Mather’s chicane.
Michael Dunlop bounced back to finish runner up behind brother William in the second race of the day, the opening Superbike encounter. This was the race of the day as Michael, who had made a terrible start, reeled in his elder sibling and passed him at Metropole on the final lap.
The packed grandstands were on their feet as the local heroes shared each other’s wheel tracks along the Coast road. A superb late braking manoeuvre saw William slip past at Juniper Hill chicane and he managed to hold on to win his first International superbike race.
“I didn’t even know Michael was there until Mather’s on the last lap.” the 28 year old said afterwards.
“I had been taking it easy to save the tyres but I had to start racing again. It’s been a long time coming but it’s nice to have won here on a 125, 250, 600 and big bike.”
Fermanagh’s Lee Johnston steered his Pirtek Kawasaki to his second Supertwin victory of the week with Michael Dunlop (McAdoo Kawasaki) finishing second and James Cowton (Kendo Racing Kawasaki) taking third.
“I really needed that,” the Maguiresbridge rider admitted afterwards.
“I’ve been walking round the paddock with a long face after what happened in the Supersport race so I really wanted to win this race and pushed hard once I’d got to the front.”
After that the day belonged to Michael Dunlop. The Ballymoney extended his North West win tally to four with victories in the CP Hire Superstock race and the Vauxhall Superbike race on BMW S1000RRs.
Dunlop and Batham’s BMW mounted Michael Rutter were locked in battle when the red flags came out on the third lap after Simon Andrews (Penz13.com BMW) crashed heavily on the approach to Metropole. Andrews was airlifted by helicopter to hospital and Dunlop declared the winner of the shortened race with Rutter in second and Gary Johnson (Lincs Lifting Kawasaki) in third.
Dunlop got another poor start in the feature Superbike race but battled his way through the pack to catch early leaders Josh Brookes (Milwaukee Yamaha) and Alastair Seeley (Mar-Train Kawasaki) by breaking the lap record twice. The Ballymoney man grabbed the lead on the fourth lap of five and opened a gap when Brookes ran wide on to the grass at Mather’s chicane.
“I really wanted to show what I could do on the BMW and the crowd was fantastic as they cheered me on on that last lap.” he said as he supped the winners’ bubbly.
“After the first race I had a good feel for the bike and we made a few changes that made things better and the best thing was that I stopped anyone beating my dad Robert’s record of 15 North West wins.”
Brookes eventually finished second, beating Seeley by 1.6 seconds after setting a new outright lap record of 122.958mph on the final lap of the race in what was only the Aussie BSB star’s third road race meeting.
“I am thrilled to be on the podium today.” he said after taking his second rostrum finish of race week and earning the Overseas Man of the Meeting award.
Peter Hickman (Ice Valley BMW) took the Best Newcomer award with four top 20 finishes during the week.
John McGuinness Report
Morecambe’s John McGuinness endured a challenging International North West 200 meeting this week as his injured wrist meant he was unable to perform at the level he wished. The Honda Racing rider struggled during the hectic, back-to-back qualifying sessions and, after opting out of Thursday evening’s races, all he had to show for his efforts on Saturday was a solitary 12th place finish.
Conditions were perfect in Northern Ireland during both Tuesday and Thursday’s qualifying sessions and John battled manfully throughout on his Superbike, Superstock and Supersport machines although the punishing, heavy braking points around the 8.9-mile course forced him to ice his right wrist between sessions. Nevertheless, he was able to qualify comfortably inside the top 15 in all three classes, ninth in the Supersport class on the Valvoline Racing/Padgetts Honda the best result.
However, he opted out of Thursday evening’s Superstock and Supersport races to rest the wrist in preparation for Saturday’s feature race day but the weather added further problems as the North coast was hit by frequent showers. He was forced to pull out of both the Superbike races but he dug deep in the second Supersport race to cross the line in 12th place.
With practice for the TT getting underway in less than ten day’s time, John will now be working hard on his fitness with intense physio planned as he looks to give himself the best possible chance of success on the Isle of Man.
John McGuinness: “It’s been a really tough few days and nothing like how I’d hoped. I knew it was going to be a big ask to run at the sharp end straightaway but I just wasn’t able to push as hard as I’d have liked and the situation’s worse here due to all the heavy braking points around the course. I’ve had a long time out of the saddle and the back-to-back practice sessions took their toll, which was why I decided to sit Thursday evening out to allow the wrist to recover in time for Saturday.
“Race conditions on Saturday weren’t good for anyone with the circuit varying in how wet it was and it proved to be a really tough day. All I can do is put it behind me and focus all my efforts on getting in the best possible shape for the TT. It’s my main event of the year and I want to put on the best possible show I can so, rest assured, I’ll be working hard this next week and making sure I get plenty of physio to allow me to push hard throughout the fortnight.”
John’s first practice session for the Isle of Man TT is scheduled to be Monday 26th May.
Conor Cummins made his competitive debut for Honda Racing at the North West 200 today, securing a podium finish and a sixth place in the two Superbike races aboard his 2014 Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade SP machine.
The first Superbike outing was shortened from seven to five laps after heavy rainfall left the 8.9-mile Triangle circuit in difficult conditions. The race began just before 1pm with Cummins getting off to a good start and fighting his way into second place by the end of the second lap.
An attack from Michael Dunlop on the penultimate lap saw the Manxman drop back to third place, where he held fast until the chequered flag to take his third-ever North West 200 podium and his second of the day, having placed second in the earlier Supersport race. William Dunlop took the win with Michael Dunlop in second place.
Race two was also shortened to five laps and went ahead at 5pm on a drying track. Cummins put in another solid performance, eventually settling for sixth place and rounding off his Honda Racing debut in satisfying style. The race was won by Michael Dunlop with Josh Brookes in second and Alastair Seeley in third.
John McGuinness struggled today as the broken scaphoid he sustained two months ago continues to heal. The six-time North West 200 winner was unable to finish either of the two Superbike races, pulling in to the pits on the final lap of both.
The Honda Racing team will now turn its attention to the Isle of Man TT, which begins on Monday 26 May.
Neil Tuxworth team manager – “It’s been difficult for John due to his injury and the fact that he’s had very little time on the bike. This circuit is particularly hard on his wrist as you have to break heavily seven or eight times. I think it will be a little easier for him at the TT after two more weeks of recuperation. On the other side, Conor has had a fantastic day and he’s performing just as I expected. I think he’ll be one of the top contenders at this year’s TT without a doubt.”
John McGuinness DNF DNF – “I’m not going to lie, today has been one of the toughest days I’ve ever had in racing. My wrist injury has made things very difficult around this circuit and it was almost impossible for me to push, particularly in the conditions we had today. I just have to put this behind me and look ahead to the TT. I’ve got another week or so of recovery and physio time so let’s hope I can improve things before we head there.”
Conor Cummins 3rd 6th – It’s been a good day at the office for me. If someone has told me last night that I could have a third and a sixth today, I’ve have taken that without hesitation. The weather played a big role today and it’s been tricky racing but I’m happy. I just wanted to get that last race done and now I’m in a really positive frame of mind to head to the TT. All in all, it’s been a great day.”
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