Against a backdrop of a sun-kissed Atlantic Ocean North West 200 competitors have been enjoying sunshine as race week got underway in, funnily enough, the North West of Ireland.
Three races produced three different winners during the first evening of racing for 2019 as this year marks the 90th anniversary of the event, a fact noted on the front of Michael Rutter’s Honda RC213V-S for the Superbike events to come on Saturday. There have been breaks in the running of the event due to wars, ‘The Troubles’ and even foot-and-mouth disease outbreaks, but is still running strongly and plays host to the stars of ‘road racing’ ahead of the Isle of Man TT each year.
24-times North West winner Alastair Seeley (EHA Yamaha) and Lee Johnston (Ashcourt Racing Yamaha) were locked in battle at the front of the six-lap Tides Restaurant Supersport race that opened proceedings.
James Hillier (Quattro Plant Kawasaki), Dean Harrison (Silicone Kawasaki) and Paul Jordan (Logan Yamaha) were all in the mix as well, swapping places constantly in a high speed train.
It was Johnston and Seeley though who led that train on to the coast road on the final circuit, with Seeley going for the winning move as he has so many times before at Juniper chicane. He got his nose in front but carrying a little too much speed the Carrick racer lost control and crashed leaving Johnston to cruise to victory ahead of Dean Harrison and James Hillier. Seeley was uninjured after his tumble and walked back to the paddock.
“There is a reason why Seeley has won so many races round here and it’s hard to know when he is playing and when he is not.’ Lee Johnston said after taking his fourth North West victory. His mid corner speed over Black Hill was slow for him and I didn’t know whether he was playing with me. I thought I’m going to go and whatever happens, happens. I knew exactly where my braking marker was and I knew that if he got past he wasnt getting stopped.”
Michael Dunlop (MD Racing Honda) finished 4th in what was the Ballymoney man’s first race since the Senior TT last June. Jamie Coward (Prez Yamaha) was 5th and Ian Hutchinson (Honda Racing) completed the top six. There is another Supersport bout on Saturday.
2019 NW 200 Supersport Race One Results
Lee Johnston – Yamaha
Dean Harrison – Kawasaki +0.730
James Hillier – Kawasaki +1.649
Michael Dunlop – Honda +25.371
Jamie Coward – Yamaha +26.832
Ian Hutchinson – Honda +27.758
Davey Todd – Honda +27.932
Gary Johnson – Triumph +44.748
Michael Sweeney – Yamaha +1 lap
Daley Mathison – Yamaha +1 lap
After the hectic action of the 600cc machines the Bayview Hotel Superstock race was more of a procession as Peter Hickman dominated the six lapper from start to finish on the Smith’s Racing BMW, eventually winning by 1.895 secs from Glenn Irwin (Quattro Plant/Wicked Coatings Kawasaki).
Irwin had been locked in a battle with Silicone Kawasaki’s Dean Harrison until the Bradford man slid off at University on the fifth lap.
Michael Dunlop (MD Racing BMW) came out on top of a three man battle with James Hillier (Quattro Plant/Wicked Coatings Kawasaki) and Lee Johnston (Ashcourt Racing BMW) for the final podium place, receiving a huge cheer from the grandstands for his efforts.
North West debutant, Richard Cooper (Bennett’s/Buildbase Suzuki) rode a brilliant race to claim 6th place. Saturday’s race schedule will see another Superstock race contested alongside an extra Supersport and SuperTwins bout. Superbikes race for the first time on Saturday morning before the premier North West 200 on Saturday evening.
‘I have been fast on the Superstock bike all week for some reason.’ Hickman explained.
‘Its a brand new bike and I had never even sat on it before Tuesday. The boys have done a great job and it worked straight out of the box. I just wanted to get to the front as soon as I could and just get my head down and get on with it. if I could just get that half a second out of the slip stream then I knew I could get a little bit of a lead.’
2019 NW 200 Supersport Race One Results
Peter Hickman – BMW
Glenn Irwin – Kawasaki +1.895
Michael Dunlop – BMW +12.228
James Hillier – Kawasaki +12.694
Lee Johnston – BMW +13.593
Richard Cooper – Suzuki +24.065
Jamie Coward – Yamaha +53.228
Daley Mathison – BMW +53.405
Derek Sheils – Suzuki +57.404
Paul Jordan – Kawasaki +58.214
With the sun low in the sky, Jeremy McWilliams (KMR/ Bayview Kawasaki) bounced back from his earlier crash during qualifying to force his way to the front of the pack on the opening lap of the MCL Insuretech Supertwins race. But on the second circuit the former MotoGP star crashed out at Mather’s chicane on the second circuit after being ran wide by another competitor, leaving Stefano Bonetti (VAS Engine Racing Paton) in the lead.
Over the second half of the race the Italian was hunted down by Jamie Coward who had posted the fastest time in qualifying aboard the KTS Racing Kawasaki.
Coward took the lead at University but Bonetti got the Paton back in front along the coast road to take victory.
Behind the leading duo Michael Rutter provided some consolation for team boss Ryan Farquhar after McWilliam’s crash by taking third on the KMR/Bathams Kawasaki).
Limerick’s James Chawke (Team ILR Paton) had a brilliant ride to 4th on his North West debut with Team ILR teammate Horst Saiger 5th and Francesco Curinga (Bemar Paton) taking 6th.
“Winning my first international road race is better than winning the lottery.” Bonetti said after giving Italy it’s first North West 200 victory and bringing the opening day of race action at the 90th anniversary event to an emotional close.
2019 NW 200 SuperTwins Race One Results
Stefano Bonetti – Paton
Jamie Coward – Kawasaki +0.579
Michael Rutter – Kawasaki +7.428
James Chawke – Paton +25.982
Horst Saiger – Paton +26.265
Francesco Curinga – Paton +27.127
Victor Lopez – Kawasaki +51.038
Carl Phillips – Paton +51.485
Darren Cooper – Kawasaki +58.515
Matthew Rees – Kawasaki +64.852
NW 200 Superbike Qualifying
Glenn Irwin took Superbike pole position with a new unofficial lap record on the Quattro Plant/Wicked Coatings Kawasaki ZX-10RR in Thursday’s final qualifying session for Saturday’s Superbike races.
The winner of the last three big bike races on the 8.9 mile Triangle circuit lapped in 4min 21.767sec, 0.328 sec faster than Michael Dunlop’s outright lap record that has stood since 2016.
Superbike Pole – Glenn Irwin
“It’s only pole but it’s important.’ Irwin said, referring to his lacklustre start to the 2019 BSB series and a poor opening North West qualifying session on Tuesday. I was down in the dumps and in tears on Tuesday night. I haven’t been myself and didn’t want to be here but I came with a different attitude today.”
The pole position rounded off a good day for the Carrickfergus man who also qualified on the front row for the Superstock and Supertwins races on the Quattro Plant and KTS Racing Kawasakis.
Irwin had been helped on his ride to pole by Dean Harrison who circulated just in front of the Quattro Plant machine on his similar Silicone Kawasaki. Harrison also dipped under the existing lap record time before finishing 0.206 seconds behind Irwin.
Alastair Seeley completed the front row of the grid on the PBM/Be Wiser Ducati V4RR just 0.071 secs behind Harrison.
Almost three seconds- 2.792 secs- separated Seeley from fourth fastest Michael Dunlop (Tyco BMW). Manxman Conor Cummins pushed his way into the reckoning as fifth fastest on the Milenco Padgett’s Honda Fireblade and Lee Johnston (Ashcourt Racing BMW) completed the top six.
Newcomer Richard Cooper made the established frontrunners sit up and take notice with a brilliant ride 8th fastest on the Bennett’s/Buildbase Suzuki just behind Michael Rutter’s Batham’s Racing/Aspire Ho RCV213S Honda.
Ian Hutchinson (Honda Racing Fireblade) and James Hillier (Quattro Plant/ Wicked Coatings Kawasaki) completed the top ten. Peter Hickman completed just three laps on the Smith’s Racing BMW, failing to better his best time on Tuesday.
Derek Sheils jumped up the rankings, claiming 12th fastest time on the Burrows/RK Racing Suzuki after suffering brake problems on Tuesday.
David Johnson remains in 13th although he didn’t ride in the final superbike qualifying after crashing at Magherabouy in the earlier Supersport session. DJ had been 11th in the opening Superbike qualifying session on Tuesday.
Davey Todd, last year’s fastets newcomer finished 14th quickest on the Wepol/Penz13.com BMW but John McGuinness languishes 22nd fastest on the Norton in his North West comeback. The Morecambe man lapped three seconds faster than he had on Tuesday on the Norton SG8 but only completed one lap before stopping retiring.
On Saturday roads close at 9.15am with a five race programme beginning at 10am. The Junction Retail and Lesiure Park Supersport race is followed by the first superbike race, sponsored by the Anchor Hotel and Restaurant Complex. The John M. Paterson Supertwin race and the CP Hire Superstock race follow with the Merrow Hotel and Spa NW200 feature Superbike race bringing the curtain down on the 2019 North West 200 action.
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