Triumphing in thriller is a Super feeling, says Irwin
Glenn Irwin spectacularly lived up to his billing as our next big name in motorcycle racing.
The likeable Carrickfergus lad arrived at the Vauxhall International North West 200 on the back of a brilliant start to his British Superbike campaign and left the Triangle having clinched his maiden international road race victory following his first Superbike rides around the Portrush-Portstewart-Coleraine circuit after a titanic battle with 21-time North West winner Alastair Seeley and 14-time TT winner Ian Hutchinson.
The Saturday contest will go down in the annals of history as arguably the best ever seen around the Triangle.
The seven-lap race was a thriller from start to finish and not for the faint-hearted as the trio delighted the huge crowd with their commitment, skill and bravery at speeds of up to 200mph.
The PBM Be Wiser Ducati of Irwin and Seeley and Hutchinson's Tyco BMWs were just inches apart at times and the big bikes did their very best to throw the riders off, bucking and weaving on the bumps.
Fourth in the opening Superbike contest, Irwin was simply magnificent in the main race of the day taking the chequered flag 0.172 seconds ahead of Seeley with Hutchinson third, 0.557 seconds behind his team-mate.
A jubilant Irwin, a real favourite with the crowd, said: "I really wanted that and I'm over the moon. I lost a race along the Coast Road in 2015 due to poor positioning for the Juniper Chicane, so I was determined it wasn't going to happen again.
"It's my favourite part of the circuit, but the front was moving about a lot through Black Hill and anyone who says that road racers only ride at 90 per cent, that's b*******. That was flat out the whole way.
"I hit three bumps into Black Hill and thought I was going to join the crowd, who were superb the whole way throughout the whole race with their encouragement.
"The Coast Road has been Alastair's territory, but I was determined he would not get on the inside of me at Juniper this time."
Irwin (with partner Laura and son Freddie) continued: "Credit must go to the organisers. At 2pm we'd had one race and they have no control over the weather, so to persevere and complete the race programme with such stunning racing is a real boost for the North West.
"I would also wish Chris Dixon and John McGuinness a speedy recovery and anyone else who maybe slipped off that I'm not aware of. My dad (Alan, who was a very successful racer in the 1980s and 90s) told me I had done something he couldn't manage, so it's good to have an Irwin name on the winners' list."
Man of the meeting Seeley, a three-time winner on Saturday, said: "That was an awesome race. Seven laps is a long way and I made a poor start. Glenn's Ducati was fast and he is very strong on the brakes, so I'm happy with yet another podium."
After a heart-stopping moment on the last lap for Seeley on the flat to the stop run from Station Corner to University, the Wee Wizard raised the dust as he went between the white line and verge at the side of the road. He explained: "I pulled out of Glenn's slipstream on the outside and got a bit close to the side of the track.
"We had another moment when we came across a slower rider (Andrew Sellars) approaching Church on the last lap. Glenn went outside, I went inside and took the lead, but lost drive and he managed to get past me again."
Third-placed Hutchinson commented: "I've been miles off the pace of all the boys this week. The Superbike is basic really and I gambled on a treaded front tyre. I'm happy with third and everything is all under control ahead of the TT."
The same could be said of Bennetts Suzuki pilot Michael Dunlop, who had problems in the Superstock race and didn't start the first Superbike race after an oil leak on the sighting lap halted proceedings.
However, he eventually got it together in the final race and gained significant ground in the final half of the race to finish in fourth position, three seconds behind Hutchinson - a significant result ahead of the TT.
√ Veteran North West doctor Fred McSorley retires from the medical travelling doctor's team at the end of this season.
The Lurgan medic (left) said: "I'm 30 years at this and it's my last North West. It has been a privilege to do this job and I leave the team in good shape.
"We also had the important Air Ambulance on site for the first time this week, which everyone will benefit from, not just motorcyclists. My son Alistair, who used to come to the races in nappies, has joined the team as I hand over the reins."