Wee Wizard Alastair Seeley has given a high five to the Relentless North West 200’s new look for 2012.
The Tyco Suzuki rider and five-time North West winner even hinted that he thought it possible to conjure up a clean sweep by winning all five races come race day, Saturday, May 19.
Recently crowned Enkalon Irish Motorcyclist of the Year, Seeley was certainly aiming high when he spoke at the Belfast Waterfront Hall launch of this year’s event, featuring, for the first time, two Thursday night races on May 17 – Superstocks and the newly-introduced Supertwin class.
Reigning British Supersport champion Seeley said: “Last year I won the opening Supersport race and was leading the Superbike race only for it and the rest of the meeting to be aborted after Ryan Farquhar’s machine left a trail of oil on part of the circuit.
“Beforehand I had put so much effort into equalling Philip McCallen’s five-wins-in-a-day record from 1992 and the same effort will be going into this year’s event.
“Of course you need a lot of things to fall into place. You need a lot of luck, roll out of the right side of the bed on the morning, the team to supply you with fast, reliable bikes and I have every confidence that the Tyco Suzuki team can do that.
“However there are a lot of good, quick riders out there looking to win as well, so it won’t be easy. I’ll have three rounds of the British Superbike Championship behind me by then, so I should be in good, sharp condition for the challenge of the North West.
“The five-timer might be a dream, but who knows, it just might be possible.”
As Carrick rider Seeley looks towards multiple victories at the North West, near neighbour Jeremy McWilliams would just be happy to win one race on Irish road racing debut.
Riding Ryan Farquhar’s ER 650 Kawasaki, McWilliams will line up in the Thursday Supertwin four-lap race and speaking about his decision to ride at the North West, the ex-Grand Prix star said: “Throughout my career I never had an opportunity to compete at the North West although my sponsor at the time, Joe Millar, was always keen.
“Now, after a few what if’s and why not’s, I can give it a go. I’ve always been an avid fan behind the fence, now I’d like to see what it’s like on the other side.
“The North West has always been on my ‘to-do’ list’. I’m looking forward to the race and like everybody who lines up on the grid, I’ll want to win. I’m not there to make up the numbers.”
Back on the grid for the North West after missing 2011 will be five-time winner John McGuinness and also Ian Hutchinson, a double winner at the event.
McGuinness said: “I’ve been racing here 16 or 17 years and only missed 2001 because of the foot and mouth outbreak and last year because of a clash of dates with World Endurance Championship.
“I’ve seen enormous changes over the years but it is one I look forward to. I’ll be riding the TT Honda Legends Superbike and for the Padgett family in the rest of the races and will certainly be looking at podium finishes.”
Hutchinson, recovering from injury last year, said: “Watching last year with a cage on my leg wasn’t good.
“In fact, the last North West race I took part in, I won in 2010, so now with the Swan Yamaha Team I’m looking to take it on from there. My podium at Macau last November was a real boost for the confidence.”
Other riders attending yesterday’s launch were local men Kirk Jamison, John Burrows, Brian McCormack and Denver Robb along with new Tyco Suzuki signing Conor Cummins, Millsport Ducati rider Steve Mercer and new safety liaison official Steve Plater, himself an eight-time NW 200 winner.
With so many outstanding riders on the grid, and given a fair wind by the elements that wrecked last year’s event, the 2012 North West 200 is shaping up to come back stronger for its’ much needed makeover.