The North West 200 is back.
Excellent, incident-free racing, top speeds over 100mph and the prospect of a first North West winning six-timer by local hero Alastair Seeley sets the scene for a potentially thrilling Race Day around the north coast Triangle circuit today.
The experiment of Thursday night racing for the first time in the 83-year history of the famous event proved a resounding, well-supported success, banishing the bitter memory of last year’s jinxed and aborted let-down.
Already the fans have witnessed one more race than last year with the forecast set fair for today.
It all augurs well for the five-race main event and how fitting that two local riders will be the men to beat in the forefront of an international field.
Carrick’s Seeley took the opening Superstock race by the unusually wide margin of 22.5 seconds from Fermanagh native Lee Johnston, boosted by a fastest lap speed of 111.734 in the wet on his Tyco TAS Suzuki.
Dungannon ace Farquhar then led his KMR Kawasaki team to a remarkable 1-2-3 in the Supertwin race he helped inaugurate, with Jeremy McWilliams cheered all the way to second on his road race debut at 48 and another North West favourite Michael Rutter third, posting the fastest lap at 101.270. Those speeds will soar with the big Superbikes coming into play today — Seeley on pole in four races, the two Superbike and two Supersport, and Farquhar leading from the front in the Superstock with Seeley in second.
It promises to be a battle royal between two great home-grown racers.
And adding to the anticipation, the fans and Seeley can now dare to dream of history being made.
Seeley (32) is perfectly placed, and equipped with the right bikes, to complete a five-timer today. Added to last night’s Superstock win, that would incredibly top Philip McCallen’s record five wins in 1992. Wee Wizard Seeley has eclipsed legend McCallen once before up here — two years ago as the first Irish winner of a North West Superbike race since now BBC commentator Phil in 1997.
“It’s certainly do-able,” Seeley said. “And I certainly fired a warning shot with the margin of that win. I’m just not saying I am going to do it. Ian Hutchinson never said or thought he could win five races at the TT but he did it, so anything is possible.
“I’ve got to approach it one race at a time, it’s the only way. I know the expectation is there among the fans and I also have the tools to do the job in the shape of the best prepared bikes its possible to have up here.
“The Tyco set-up has been fantastic under Philip and Hector Neill. The bikes are working really well and we’d very few changes to make between Tuesday and Thursday practice. We know, too, they can handle any conditions after experiencing both wet and dry this week.”
Seeley has clearly thought about one day being in a position to emulate his pal McCallen. Fresh history can be made this weekend.