North West 200: Michael Dunlop left stunned as Alastair Seeley's gamble pays off
Alastair Seeley was on the crest of a wave as he guided his Gearlink Kawasaki to a superb win to begin the Vauxhall International North West 200 in style.
It was a victory that was to cause waves as the Carrickfergus ace came from the fourth row of the second wave of riders to catch long time leader Michael Dunlop on the fifth and final lap of the Ballymoney Borough Council Supersport race.
Ironically he was less than impressed last year when he lost in the same fashion to Michael Rutter, but what goes around comes around and he was the beneficiary this time.
Recording his ninth North West triumph the 33-year-old rider was jubilant in the victory enclosure afterwards.
“I took a bit of a gamble with the intermediate rear, but it worked,” he said.
“I saw my board showing P2 at end of first lap and put the foot down and on the last lap made no mistakes and snatched the win. I’m over the moon to have taken the win.
“A year ago I lost out to Michael Rutter in the Superstock race in the same way, so it’s pleasing to take the win in this way.
“I dedicate this win to Norma Bidulph wife of Gearlink team boss Michael who is in hospital at the moment.”
On the wet, but slowly drying roads, Dunlop with a wet rear tyre took the lead from Guy Martin and Bruce Anstey by Metropole on the opening lap and was three seconds ahead of Martin at the end of the lap with Anstey a further second back in third.
Dunlop was riding a lonely race at the front of the field, but all eyes were on Seeley, whose poor qualifying performance due to machine problems and wet conditions for final qualifying left him languishing in 31st position on the grid, as by the end of the first lap he was into second place, seven seconds down on Dunlop on corrected time.
On lap two Seeley, with an intermediate rear tyre was eight seconds adrift of Dunlop and seemingly settling for second place, as Martin and Anstey slowly dropped back with Lee Johnston, John McGuinness and Dean Harrison scrapping for fifth.
Going onto the fifth and final lap Dunlop’s lead was reduced five and a half seconds over the flying Seeley, who was now up to 11th position on the road behind Ian Lougher, James Hillier and Conor Cummins.
Seeley set the fastest lap of the race at 108.739mph on his final circuit to reel in the MD Racing Honda.
Dunlop took the chequered flag first, but when Seeley crossed the finish line he had overcome the deficit and won the race by 1.349seconds.
Martin was over 23 seconds back in third place, with Anstey a further 14 seconds adrift in fourth.
Stuart Easton, placed seventh going onto the last lap came home fifth setting his fastest lap overhauling McGuinness and Harrison.
William Dunlop, one of the fancied runners made a poor start from the second row and he was back in 18th at the end of lap one, eventually retiring his Milwaukee Yamaha at Mathers Chicane on the penultimate lap.