The first international road race of 2013, the Vauxhall North West 200 double header on May 16 and 18, promises a series of fascinating duels between the heavyweights of the pure road racing world.
Milwaukee Yamaha mounted William Dunlop will be locked in sibling rivalry with his younger brother Michael for the first time in their now factory supported careers. In turn 24-year-old Michael will find himself pitched against the elder statesmen of the sport, Honda TT Legends team-mates John McGuinness and Michael Rutter.
After his debut ‘between the hedges’ at Portrush last year, ex-Grand Prix hero Jeremy McWilliams will be seeking his maiden win in the Supertwins on the Vauxhall KMR Kawasaki against young guns Jamie Hamilton and James Hillier.
Engrossing as these contests may be, perhaps the most intense rivalry will be fought out between Gear Link Kawasaki’s Alastair Seeley and Mar-Train Yamaha’s Stuart Easton as they transfer their paint-swapping battles in the British Supersport championship from the BSB short circuit scene to the 8.9 mile kerb and wall lined Triangle course. Both go in the Supersport and Superbike races.
Brave Scot Easton will be making a return to the roads following his terrifying 150mph practice crash at the North West in 2011 when he collided with MSS Kawasaki team-mate Gary Mason’s ZX10. Now completely recovered from his injuries, the 29 year old has dropped down to the 600cc class in which he is locked at the top of the rankings with Seeley after three rounds of the British championship.
Having stated publicly last year that he would try to equal Phillip McCallen’s 1992 record of five wins in a single day at the North West, Carrick ace Seeley, who managed ‘only’ three, says he is in ‘stealth mode’ this year.
“‘I’m not going to predict any wins this year,” he insisted. “If you say that you are going to do this or that and you don’t win then people only remember what you didn’t do rather than what you achieved.
“Whoever does well at the British championship round (at Oulton this year) just before the North West always carries that confidence to the North West.
“Stuart will be strong at the North West. He carries a lot of corner speed and he is very smooth. He doesn’t make many mistakes. The Supersport races will probably be down to a last lap move, with maybe 10 riders capable of winning on the Coast road.”
Asked if the two Supersport races will be Seeley v Easton ding dongs, the Wee Wizard;s Scottish rival conceded: “There could be the potential for it. If I do my job right it could happen but Alastair is the man to beat at the North West and he should have it covered. But that also means that the pressure is on him rather than me. After all, I’m just making my comeback.”
The duo will also go head to head in the Superbike class with both riders fielding bikes specially built for the race.
“When I was considering the contracts that I was offered during the winter I wanted one that would give me good bikes for the North West,” Seeley explained. “I have a Nick Morgan-built MSS Kawasaki ZX10 for both Superbike races.”
Easton’s Saintfield-based Mar-Train team have produced a Superbike-spec R1 for the Scot but neither Seeley nor he has enjoyed much track time on their new machines.
Seeley will also have a Superstock-spec ZX10 which will give him starts in six races in total but with two of those races being run on Thursday evening, the 2012 treble winner will not have the opportunity to chase McCallen’s five-timer in a single day.