Alastair Seeley equals Joey Dunlop & Michael Rutter record of 13 North West 200 wins
After dominating practice for the 2015 Vauxhall International North West 200, Alastair Seeley won the opening EventServ Supersport race in front of huge crowds on his Tyco Suzuki.
The 34 year old has now won 13 North West races, placing him on equal terms with the late Joey Dunlop and Michael Rutter with 13 wins on the 8.9 mile Triangle circuit.
The Carrickfergus rider set a new 600cc lap record of 117.077mph as he beat off challenges from North West newcomer Glenn Irwin on the Gear Link Kawasaki and Michael Dunlop on the MD Racing Yamaha to take the victory.
“Some people don’t rate the Suzuki but I like it.” Seeley said afterwards.
“It was a close race and Glenn was putting me under a bit of pressure there – and fair play to him on being up there with us on his first time around here! I’m sure he’s learned a fair bit sitting in there too. Track knowledge and experience did it for me though – Glenn was using the entire road!”
The young British Supersport championship contender had shown that he meant business when he said that he could win on his debut at the seaside event by breaking through from the second row to lead at the start of the race. Seeley got the Suzuki’s nose in front before Irwin passed the Tyco man into Juniper Hill chicane on the second lap. Seeley retook the lead on the exit from the start and finish chicane but what appeared to be going to be a great dogfight of a race came to an abrupt end when Irwin went out of the race between Station and University with an engine problem.
It was left to Michael Dunlop to make a race of it with Seeley on his MD Racing machine but the Yamaha didn’t have the pace to stay with the Suzuki, finishing 7.5 seconds adrift.
Lee Johnston put a poor practice on his ECC/Burdens Triumph behind him to take the final podium position after catching and overtaking Bruce Anstey on the Padgetts Valvoline Honda.
“To be fair, everything worked really well.” Seeley reflected afterwards.
“The Metzeler tyres were good and we weren’t sliding much – we’re testing a new tyre this week and I’m really happy with it. I was able to come out of places like Metropole, spin it and hook it first, the thing was so stable. That meant in places like the chicanes and on the Coast Road we were able to just pull out a little bit every time.”
In Supersport qualifying Bruce Anstey had been second fastest to Seeley, 0.695 seconds slower with William Dunlop taking third in spite of his crash at York, which saw the session being red flagged. But once again it was newcomer Glenn Irwin who caused a sensation, taking fourth spot on the Gear Link Kawasaki.
“I am disappointed not to be on pole.” the Carrickfergus youngster said.
Irwin’s father Alan, one of the North West’s leading competitors of the Eighties and Nineties, has been giving his young protégé some tips on riding the 8.9 mile Triangle course.
“My nerves are shattered!” Irwin senior admitted after the session.
“But Glenn is doing really well and it is a long time since someone did what he is doing. He has been getting quicker on every lap.”
Ryan Farquhar made it a double for the local riders as the Dungannon man took victory in the Supertwins event. Starting from pole Farquhar steered his SGS/KMR Kawasaki into a lead that he held until Metropole on the final lap when his team mate Jeremy McWilliams dived up the inside.
But wily Farquhar went underneath the former Grand Prix star and held on until the chequered flag to win on his comeback to full-time racing.
“I knew Jeremy was going to have a go – I just didn’t know where.” Farquhar laughed as McWilliams celebrated in the winners’ enclosure.
“It was a fantastic race and just to get on the podium is good, but it’s a dream come true – and having Jeremy beside me is just fantastic!”
Comeback hero and 2012 winner, Ryan Farquhar had topped the listings in the Supertwins Qualifying on his SGS/KMR Kawasaki ahead of Martin Jessopp (VRS Kawasaki) and James Hillier (Quattro Plant Kawasaki). Grand Prix legend Jeremy McWilliams was fourth quickest on a second SGS/KMR Kawasaki.
Anticipation was high for the final Spidi Superstock race amongst the hordes of fans enjoying the evening sunshine. Sadly the race came to an abrupt end after just one lap when Sandor Bitter crashed the T&R Motorsport BMW at Ballysally roundabout. The Hungarian was taken to Causeway hospital for a check up although he did not sustain any serious injury in the crash. With the roads having to re-open at 8.45pm there was insufficient time to re-start the race which the organisers have announced will now be run on Saturday.
Alastair Seeley takes Superbike Pole Position for 2015 North West 200
Alastair Seeley dominated practice once again on Thursday for the 2015 North West 200.
The Carrickfergus man topped all three classes he is competing in at the seaside event on Tuesday and he repeated the feat today, taking pole position for Saturday’s Superbike races on the Tyco BMW S1000RR. The 34 year old also topped the leaderboard in the Superstock and Supersport sessions before going on to take victory in the Supersport opener.
“All of the bikes are working well and it just seemed that all the riders who start in front of me are coming back to me.” a delighted Seeley said afterwards.
“We didn’t make any major changes to tehj bike from Tuesday because there is no point in fixing what isn’t broken. I made a tyre change on the Stocker that I wanted to try on the big bike but the session was cut short and I didn’t get the chance.”
Seeley must now feel super confident going into Saturday’s Superbike races after finishing a massive 2.479 seconds faster than second placed Lee Johnston on the ECC/Burdens BMW with a lap of 121.552mph.
“We have a little issue with the brakes and hopefully when we get that sorted we will go faster.” Johnston said after grabbing the second front row spot on Saturday’s superbike grid.
“I only did two flying laps before I came in and those are the first two dry laps I have had on the bike.”
His fine superbike qualifying performance was consolation for the Fermanagh man after he failed to get in a lap during the Supersport session on the ECC/Burdens Triumph. The clutch broke on the opening lap and after Johnston returned to the pits and had it replaced he was forced to retire when the coil packed on the next lap.
Veteran John McGuinness, celebrating 25 years of racing this season, was third fastest on the factory Honda Fireblade.
“Don’t sound so surprised!” the 21 times TT winner joked.
“I knew we had a strong package and that I would be competitive. The front row is where you need to be and it’s a bonus because all of the best road racers in the world are here. I am in amongst all the fast kids on the fast bikes in the fast teams!”
The TT lap record holder, Bruce Anstey, was fourth fastest on the Padgett’s Valvoline Honda. William Dunlop was fifth quickest on a second Tyco BMW in spite of injuring his left hip after he highsided at York on the CD Racing Yamaha during the Supersport session.
13 times North West winner Michael Rutter finished just behind Dunlop on another BMW, the Penz13.com S1000RR.
Last year’s feature race winner, Michael Dunlop was over 5.5 seconds slower on the Milwaukee Yamaha than Seeley’s fastest time with Dean Harrison another 5/100ths back on the MarTrain R1.
Conor Cummins was ninth quickest – “The practice sessions have been eventful this week and we’ve not managed a clean run so far with the weather on Tuesday and the session unfortunately being red flagged and cut short today. I did have a good run on the Superbike today though and am feeling ready to race it now, and can’t wait until Saturday.”
Dunlop fared better in the Superstock class where he was only 0.752 seconds slower than Seeley on the stock version of the Milwaukee R1 with Lee Johnston once again making the top three on the ECR/Burdens BMW.
Saturday’s race programme is scheduled as
- Betmclean.com Supersport Race (6 laps)
- Monster Energy Superbike Race (7 laps)
- The Anchor Portstewart Supertwin Race (4 laps)
- CP Hire Superstock Race (6 laps)
- Vauxhall NW200 Superbike Race (7 laps).