Alastair Seeley on mission to make NW200 history
Alastair Seeley currently sits on a joint-record 15 wins at the Vauxhall International North West 200 alongside the late, great Robert Dunlop. But having been present yesterday to hear the announcement of a fourth consecutive year of principal support from Vauxhall Motors Limited, the Carrick ace will be gunning for history and Superbike glory in the feature race on Saturday, May 14.
The double British champion took three wins at last year's event for the Moneymore-based TAS Racing team on BMW and Suzuki machinery in the Superbike and Supersport classes, but is set for a new challenge in 2016, as he explained during yesterday's announcement at the Giant's Causeway.
"Although I'm changing teams, I still believe I've as good a chance as ever at the North West and the main classes for me will be the Superbike and Superstock classes," said Seeley, who was able to confirm that he will ride for Gearlink Kawasaki in the Supersport class for a one-off appearance at the May showpiece.
Although it is widely known that the North West 200 joint-record holder will be riding BMW machinery in British Superbike this season, he was unable to confirm his team plans.
"I'll be on BMW machinery and although it will not be with the TAS boys, the package will not be much different. The last times I rode a full season in British Superbike - 2010 and 2012 - I was strong at the North West, so I'll be looking to continue that this year," said the 36-year-old, whose 2016 BSB plans will be officially announced later this month.
Eleven-time Isle of Man TT winner Ian Hutchinson - who scored a hat-trick at last year's Manx event - has replaced Seeley in the Tyco BMW set-up, and although the June showpiece will be his main goal in 2016, he is expecting to put in a big challenge at the North West on the TAS Racing prepared machinery.
"Road racing is riding the crest of a wave at the moment and a big part of that success is being able to attract good sponsors to the sport," explained the Bingley-based racer.
"To have Vauxhall back for a fourth year at the North West 200 means it works for them as a company also and I for one will be looking to add my name to that all important feature Superbike race trophy this year with Tyco BMW."
The North Coast event, which draws thousands of visitors from around the world to the Portrush, Portstewart and Coleraine area, will also enjoy the continued support of the local council.
Event Director Mervyn Whyte MBE spoke on behalf of his operations team at the NW200 when thanking both Vauxhall and the local Council. He said: "Vauxhall provides us with finance, a vehicle fleet and significant branding around the circuit, all of which are vital in running an International event each year.
"We have enjoyed long standing support from the local Council and the financial and logistical input we receive is vital in ensuring the International North West 200 continues to attract the best road racers in the world to our grid for local residents and visitors alike to enjoy."
Speaking on behalf of Vauxhall Motors, Gordon Hannen, Vauxhall's Regional Operations Manager, said: "Vauxhall Motors are delighted to return as title sponsors for the fourth consecutive year and are looking forward to reaching out to thousands of fans through our sponsorship of the Vauxhall International North West 200."
Mayor of the Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, Councillor Michelle Knight-McQuillan, added: "On behalf of the Borough I'd like to congratulate Event Director Mervyn Whyte MBE and his team on taking forward their plans for 2016 and for securing such a high profile company to sponsor this year's event.
"I am an avid follower of the International North West 200 and welcome Vauxhall back to the Borough and thank them for their investment in the event and in the area.
"Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council will continue to support the event both financially and with staffing expertise."