With a treble last year and eight career wins to date on the North Coast, Carrick's Alastair Seeley – the current leader of the British Supersport Championship – is undoubtedly the man they all have to beat at this year's Vauxhall International North West 200.
The diminutive Kawasaki rider has made his intentions and aspirations very clear before the off, by opting for the coveted number 1 plate on his MSS Kawasaki Superbike machine, as he looks to retain his NW200 Superbike crown in the Vauxhall sponsored feature race.
A new North West 200 trophy has been specially commissioned for the race winner this year by Vauxhall, and the pole position rider in the main Superbike class will receive a special Festina watch supplied by Cunningham's of Portstewart. Belleek and Tipperary Crystal will provide the trophies at this year's event.
Seeley will be joined on the grid by a host of top class road racing talent this year, with no less than six former winners boasting forty wins between them at the Triangle – firmly establishing the Vauxhall North West 200 as the number one mass start road race in the world. Last year most of the hype surrounded Seeley and whether he could equal Phillip McCallen's famous five-in-a-day at the North West.
That weight has been lifted from the 33-year-old's shoulders, as he will compete in four races on Saturday May 18: two Superbike, Supersport and Superstock – opting out of the Supertwins' class.
Seeley said: "The Superbike races are the ones everyone wants to win at the North West and the ones the fans always remember in years to come. In saying that, I'll also be looking to add to my Supersport and Superstock wins at the Triangle as I'd like to give Kawasaki as many victories as possible."
On his rivals he added: "It's not going to be easy this year with Stuart Easton showing great form in British Supersport and returning to the North West as a top class competitor.
"John McGuinness always slips in under the radar and the likes of Rutter and the Dunlop boys have to be accounted for and we should never over-look Bruce Anstey.
"I will be doing my homework as always and come race day the Wee Wizard will be doing his best to jump on as many top steps as possible," he smiled.
John McGuinness will lead the Honda TT Legends' charge alongside team-mates Michael Rutter and the new slim line Michael Dunlop. In the Yamaha corner, as Seeley mentioned, there is Stuart Easton on the Mar-Train Racing Yamahas and the Scottish rider, despite his big crash in 2011, can never be discounted.
The immaculately liveried Milwaukee road racing Yamahas of Shaun Muir will be rolled out for the first time at the North West and with William Dunlop and Conor Cummins in the saddle – the SMR run team has a great chance of a victory of two.
Dunlop has been warming himself up in the British Supersport Championship and Cummins will arrive on the North Coast with World Endurance miles under his belt from the B'ol d'Or in France, which takes place this weekend.
On the additional sponsorship from Vauxhall, North West 200 Event Director Mervyn Whyte, MBE, said: "We are delighted to have Vauxhall as the new sponsor for our main feature race and as race fans will see by the entry list, we have tried to bring the best road racers in the world to Portrush, and we know they will produce some fantastic racing."