Alastair Seeley set to be high flyer with RAF Reserves BMW team
Double British champion and record breaking 15-time North West 200 winner Alastair Seeley, is set for a return to the British Superbike Championship in 2016 in a shock move, which will see him join the Royal Air Force Reserves BMW team.
The Carrickfergus rider finished second in this season's 1000cc British Superstock Championship with Tyco BMW, the official BMW Motorrad UK team, but with no option of a third stab at BSB with Philip Neill's team next season, Seeley has decided to move on to fulfil his Superbike aspirations.
Not out of contract until the end of November, Seeley, as expected, is remaining tight-lipped about his move away from Philip and Hector Neill's TAS Racing team, and has been almost impossible to track down.
Speaking to him briefly last night, he did his best to deflect any attention away from the subject, by saying: "There's not much I can say at the minute.
"So just tell everyone I'm retiring to go motocross racing with my young cub," he joked.
"Certain people think I'm over the hill anyway," he added quite nonchalantly.
With renaissance man Ian Hutchinson - three times a TT winner in 2015 - having recently been snapped up by Tyco BMW to lead their road racing charge in 2016, as well as a full on assault in British Superstock, Seeley already looked to be in a precarious position with the local team.
Hutchinson, who moved onto 11 career wins at the IOM TT back in June, may not have Seeley's prolific win rate at the North West 200.
But having finished second to the Wee Wizard in last year's only Superbike race at the Triangle, the Bingley man has undoubtedly been signed to fill top steps at both the North West 200 and TT next May and June with Tyco BMW.
At 36 Seeley may be considered in the twilight of his career, but since 2008, he has won two British titles; finished runner-up on three other occasions in various championships, and possibly more significantly - has won a record equalling 15 North West 200s. That accolade sets the Carrickfergus racer alongside the legendary Robert Dunlop and while he respectfully never gets drawn on how he can now surpass the Ballymoney man - it could well happen next May.
Lee Hardy's RAF Reserves BMW team lost the services of new road racing sensation Peter Hickman to Kawasaki for the 2016 BSB and roads campaigns, but the move for Seeley could prove an astute one.
For the May show-piece on the north coast he will undoubtedly be in the podium mix, but a big question mark will hang over his prowess on a British Superbike in what has become the world's toughest domestic series.
Granted he did make the high profile Showdown top six back in 2010 with Relentless Suzuki, but with systematic changes in BSB and limited use of electronic rider aids - it remains to be seen if the Ulsterman can make the transition successfully in 2016.
At last year's North West 200 Seeley completed his hat-trick with a double on Hector Neill's TAS Racing Suzuki in the Supersport races.
For 2016 it looks very likely that Seeley will remain on Japanese machinery, possibly with former team Gearlink Kawasaki or the upcoming Jackson Honda squad who also run Manxman Conor Cummins.