North West: Anstey looks to extend to run of podium finishes
Every racing fan loves to quote statistics when May comes around in the bars and restaurants around the Portrush area, but for me the most impressive involve Windsor-based Kiwi Bruce Anstey.
The softly spoken 44-year-old first came to the International North West 200 back in 2002, slipping in under the radar to take a debut win as a privateer in the Production class from two men who are sadly no longer with us – David Jefferies and Gary Jess.
"Yeah. I'd a bit of a battle that year with DJ; it was the start of my North West podiums and I've had one every year since," he proudly added.
One stat that did throw him though, and also threw me when I looked it up, was that he has not won on the north coast since his treble success back in 2007 with Hector and Philip Neill's TAS Suzuki team.
He has been collecting podium bottles of champagne ever since but, interestingly, explained that the change in class – referring to an influx of quality riders and teams – on the international road racing scene has totally changed its dynamic.
"It's difficult to win any race now at the North West 200," he openly admitted, which is refreshing to hear from a man who has accumulated 22 podiums ... and counting.
"All the classes are really strong and in the past the Superbike class was the one everyone wanted to win.
"But if you can win any of the races nowadays it's a real bonus.
Ironically, his nine wins have all come on Suzuki machinery, which is another interesting statistic.
As with so much hype surrounding his move to Honda at the end of 2010, he has yet to produce a top step at the Triangle in the rainbow colours with Clive Padgett's team.
Granted, he has recorded wins at the Isle of Man TT and Ulster Grand Prix, but doing my best to read between the lines, I wanted to know if he fancied his chances of adding the Honda marque to that long list of achievements at the North West today?
"Yeah I'd like to win one for Clive, but a podium here is a good result," which he proved on Thursday night with second place in the Production class behind former team-mate Alastair Seeley.
Anstey's HM Plant by Padgetts Honda was visibly down on top speed to Seeley's MSS Kawasaki, but Bruce feels he could have taken the win. But, like a number of his racing peers, he has the TT on his mind.
"In the last couple of passing areas I could have had him," he said pulling no punches.
"It would have been tight and I did have to slide past a backmarker at Magherabuoy chicane, I think it was, and that was a tight move," he chuckled, almost embarrassed by the manoeuvre.
"But to have any chance of staying with Seeley I had to get by.
"I just let the brakes off and tipped it in and actually ran over the kerbs. I was waiting on the crunch of fairings but I got through.
Summing up he said: "Out of the corners I was right up his backside but once we got up into fifth and six gears he was able to pull away on sheer power.
"I didn't want to take any chances with the TT so close."
And finally I asked, can you reverse the result today, to which Bruce replied with his favourite word: "Yeah."