Seeley and Johnston well equipped tilt at NW200 glory
Record-breaking Vauxhall International North West 200 race winner Alastair Seeley will again be the man to beat at this year's event having reunited himself with local team Tyco BMW for the May showpiece, with Fermanagh's Lee Johnston set to ride with Ryan Farquhar's KMR Kawasaki team.
Both men were presented to the fans at last night's Meet the Stars event in Coleraine, along with a number of other leading competitors, with new dad Seeley tickled pink at getting yet another chance to ride for Hector and Philip Neill's factory-backed team.
"Three or four months ago it looked like I might not have anything for the North West 200," said the Carrickfergus ace, who has a record 17 wins at the Triangle after his Supersport double at last year's event.
"Gearlink stepped in first to support me on Kawasaki machinery for the Supersport class and now the TAS boys have kept their word and agreed to supply Tyco BMW machinery for the big bike classes. I'm now well armed with an arsenal of top-flight machinery."
Seeley's deal was assisted by event director Mervyn Whyte and supported by Charles Hurst Vauxhall, who will supply the 37-year-old with a fully liveried car to use during the season.
In return, Seeley will carry Charles Hurst Vauxhall branding on his helmet, leathers and all racing machinery, including the Spirit Racing bike that he is currently developing as part of a new project in this season's British Supersport Championship.
Farquhar, who admits he's lucky to be here after his well-documented crash at last year's event, will run Fermanagh ace Johnston on a Northern Ireland Air Ambulance liveried KMR Supertwin, with South African newcomer Hudson Kennaugh riding a KMR Supertwin and Farquhar's IEG-backed BMW Superstock machine.
Now retired from competition but still hungry for success, Farquhar said: "I wanted a local rider on the Air Ambulance bike, so I'm delighted to be working with Lee Johnston, who will also ride the bike at the Isle of Man TT."
On hard-charging South African Kennaugh, who isn't adverse to the odd spat with the sport's hierarchy, the Dungannon man added: "Hudson is a close friend of Johnny Towers from MotoDirect, who have been very supportive of me over the years, so I'm absolutely delighted to be working with him.
"He's a talented lad and will ride my KMR Twin and the IEG BMW at both the North West 200 and TT.
"This gives me a chance to give something back to my loyal team members and sponsors who have been fantastic to me these past 10 months since my accident."
Honda Racing's John McGuinness was also at last night's Meet the Stars event, as were Michael Rutter and Peter Hickman, who were joined by former winner Phillip McCallen.
In addition to the usual craic and banter on stage, which was led by BBC Sport NI's Stephen Watson, the fans were treated to a preview of this year's NW200 race week programme. Three races will again take place on the Thursday night (May 11), followed by a five-race programme on main race day Saturday (May 13).