Tyco Suzuki team manager Philip Neill has been a big fan of the North West 200 as far back as he can remember, even during his time competing in British motocross.
The event is but a short drive from his home on the outskirts on Moneymore, but little did he think, all those years ago watching the late Norman Brown riding his father Hector’s RG Suzuki, that he would be managing arguably the biggest team in the North Coast paddock a few years later.
“I’ve always enjoyed the North West 200, but back then it was a relaxed weekend for me,” reflects Philip.
“I raced the grass track on the Friday night and usually ended up having quite a few beers in Traks afterwards with my mates.
“The stress levels are much higher these days and running three riders and eight bikes at this week’s event is a big ask of any team.”
The three men in question are Alastair Seeley, Guy Martin and Conor Cummins, a real mixed bag of personalities and riding styles.
But despite Cummins and Martin attracting their own brand of celebrity status this week on the North Coast — it’s Seeley, the Wee Wizard man from Carrickfergus, that everyone will be watching intently.
“Yes there’s no doubting the fact that Alastair has proved himself to be the man to beat these past few years at the North West, but I have to be honest and say I really don’t like all this hype surrounding a potential clean sweep for us,” was Neill’s reply.
“Guy and Conor are both chasing their first wins at the North West and in many ways for different reasons.
“Guy has led races and come unstuck, but if I’m honest it’s not his main focus for the year,” was Neill’s assessment of his iconic Lincolnshire rider, who has re-invented himself as the modern day Fred Dibnah: the famous Bolton steeplejack who also became a cult TV star.
On Manxman Conor Cummins, Neill explained: “Conor is a dream to work with. He’s a big easy-going fella, but has a determination to succeed that I’m very impressed with.
“He’s slotted in really well with our team and is super fit and itching to get racing.”
So can you give us any predictions or aspirations for the North West?
“We’re representing Suzuki in an official capacity and have a lot of sponsors coming to see us race this weekend — so there’s no denying we’re here to win,” Neill said.
“We have the favourite’s tag pinned on us, rightly or wrongly with Alastair, but you have to look at the likes of Michael Rutter, who has an outstanding record at the North West 200, and in-form local men Michael Dunlop and Ryan Farquhar should never be discounted.”
- World Superbike legend Carl Fogarty who clinched two Superbike wins at the 1993 North West 200 will be visiting the Paddock on Friday, as well as riding official demo laps round the 8.9 mile circuit on Saturday Race Day.