Alastair Seeley re-writes record books at North West 200
Alastair Seeley is the undisputed King of the Vauxhall International North West 200 after taking his 16th win in last night's Supersport race, surpassing the mark he shared for 12 months with the late great Robert Dunlop.
The Carrickfergus ace really did it in fine style, setting a new lap record for the 600cc class on the sixth and final lap with an effort of 117.835mph aboard the Gearlink Kawasaki as he streaked away from the pursuing pack.
The 36-year-old was demonstratively delighted as he took the chequered flag, much to the joy of the packed grandstand.
Ian Hutchinson, who led in the middle part of the race, was runner-up, just over a second down on Seeley with Martin Jessopp taking the final podium spot, his first at the NW200.
A jubilant Seeley said: "The dream has finally come true. I've put a lot of work into this and I'm delighted.
"All the press has been about the potential of this 16th win and I always said, 'if it comes it comes, and if it doesn't it doesn't' but of course I wanted to break the record.
"Now that we've done it, it takes a bit of pressure off me and both my teams and allows us to just concentrate on trying to win some more races this weekend."
Always respectful of the Dunlop dynasty and the man he shared the record with after his hat-trick last year put him level with Robert Dunlop, Seeley added: "The North West has been very kind to me and put me on the map back in 2008. To be mentioned in the same breath as Robert Dunlop is just unbelievable and I'm a bit overwhelmed."
Recounting the race Seeley said: "It was a typical Supersport race and I was made to work for it and dropped down to fifth or sixth at one point. But I re-programmed the brain for the last lap and treated it like a qualifying lap - I just hit all the apexes, didn't miss my braking markers and brought it home for the 16th win."
Second placed Hutchinson lost a full session of practice after his Came BPT Yamaha stopped during qualifying, leaving him to start from 12th on the fourth row of the grid.
At the end of the opening lap of six, Hutchy was already up to fourth and within striking distance of the leaders. At half distance he took the lead and might well have been thinking of North West 200 career win number three.
Unfortunately for the Bingley ace, when a gutsy little man from Carrick hit the front on the penultimate lap there was only ever going to be one winner.
Hutchinson, who took his eighth career podium at the NW200 with his second place, said: "I found the race fairly easy as I knew not to push in the early laps and waste energy. But it gets a bit frustrating when you go from first to fifth and have to bash bars to get back up but that's Supersport racing and I enjoyed it.
"Missing a session left us a little bit soft with set-up on that last lap when Alastair raised his game.
"It was too much for the set-up I had. But I'm happy with that."
Third placed Jessop said: "I'm happy with that but was up for the win. I did have a chance to win but lost the tow to the front guys."
William Dunlop was fourth and will be a big threat to Seeley and Hutchinson in tomorrow's Supersport race, with Dean Harrison taking fifth place.
Fermanagh's Lee Johnston finished sixth, obviously still struggling with the injuries he sustained last month at Scarborough.