The 2013 Vauxhall International North West 200 will fire into life tomorrow morning at 10am with the opening practice session for all classes, and once again Mervyn Whyte and his dedicated team at Coleraine & District Motor Club have acquired a top-class line-up for this year’s showpiece.
With the picturesque north coast providing a fitting backdrop and a ‘who’s who’ of the world’s best road racers guaranteed to be strutting their stuff on the grid, the North West 200 is arguably the jewel in the crown when it comes to mass start pure road racing events.
Roads close at 9.30am with a 30-minute Newcomers’ session, the first on the 8.9-mile circuit, at 10am sharp, which will see Tyco Suzuki’s factory-supported British Superbike star Josh Brookes — complete with fluorescent bib — take in his first tentative laps of a pure road racing circuit.
Much is expected from the talented Aussie at this year’s event and not since the days of Steve Hislop and Carl Fogarty has there been such anticipation from the knowledgeable Northern Ireland public regarding an international star.
At 10.45am it will be the turn of the Supersport competitors and the chance for fans to see a host of top-class local talent in action. The middleweight division always produces the closest races in the modern 4-stroke classes, with Carrick’s Alastair Seeley [Gearlink Kawasaki], William Dunlop [Milwaukee Yamaha] and brother Michael [Honda] offering the most notable opportunities for a home victory in Thursday night and Saturday’s races.
Slipping in under the radar will be Maguiresbridge lad Lee Johnston on the Millsport/East Coast Honda and keep an eye out for the exotic MV Agusta of Strabane’s Ryan McCay. Other local men worth a mention in the Supersport class are regular British championship 125GP pilot Paul Jordan, aboard a Gearlink-prepared Kawasaki, flying Dubliner Derek Sheils and Tramore man Brian McCormack, KMR Vauxhall Dealers Kawasaki-mounted.
The 45-minute Superbike session is scheduled for 11.45am and it will be the first time local fans get to see Michael and William Dunlop on board their factory-prepared Honda TT Legends and Milwaukee Yamaha machines respectively.
It really is the class of the big guns with Alastair Seeley, the current Superbike king on the north coast, carrying the No 1 plate on his MSS/RC Express Kawasaki. Stuart Easton will be aboard the newly-built Mar-Train Racing R1 Yamaha, John McGuinness and Michael Rutter join Dunlop on Honda TT Legends machinery, Brookes and Martin are on Tyco Suzukis, Conor Cummins is on the second of the factory-Milwaukee Yamahas and Bruce Anstey [Padgetts], Simon Andrews [RAF Reserves], Ian Lougher [ILR] and Cameron Donald [Wilson Craig] are all Honda-mounted.
The Supertwins will be on track at 12.45pm, when Jeremy McWilliams, a former Grand Prix winner and podium finisher on his debut last year, get his first taste of action on one of Ryan Farquhar’s KMR ER6 Kawasakis.
The fifth and final session for Superstock machinery gets under way at 1.45pm with roads re-opening at 2.30pm.
It promises to be a great opening day, so get the flask and sandwiches packed and don’t forget to purchase an official Vauxhall International North West 200 programme – and support Ireland’s largest outdoor sporting event.