North West 200: Superbike stars in step for North West conga
The most powerful Superbike line-up ever assembled here will roar off the North West 200 grid on May 21.
Leading the charge will be the biggest names in road racing as the mighty 1000cc machines top and tail the Relentless International event.
Among them will be five-time 2010 TT winner Ian Hutchinson.
The 31-year-old Yorkshire rider arrived on crutches for his last Northern Ireland visit to the Irish Racer magazine awards in January as he recovered from serious crash injuries at Silverstone last September.
But he looked light on his feet as he joined fellow riders in a Strictly Come Dancing routine at Portrush's iconic former Arcadia dance hall to promote Coleraine council’s new NW200 brand profile: ‘Coleraine Borough, Home of the North West 200'.
Tripping the light fantastic with Hutchinson were North West newcomer Steve Mercer, Aussie star Cameron Donald and local rider William Davison from Kilrea.
Next time they meet, they'll be duelling at 200mph speeds to lead a conga of riders around the north coast circuit.
All four later attended a Coleraine council hosted launch of the Superbike showcase as race director Mervyn Whyte happily reported: “Entries closed on Tuesday and I’m pleased to reveal a top quality line-up of familiar faces as well as some new kids on the block which I believe will create two extremely exciting Superbike races.”
Whyte confirmed entries from Hawick rider Stuart Easton and his MSS Kawasaki team-mate Gary Mason.
Mason made his NW200 debut last May and clocked up a Best Newcomer award whilst Easton first hit the grid on 2004 and last year achieved a Superbike podium position taking second as well as fifth.
Easton hit the headlines in May 2010 beating Michael Rutter’s Speed Trap record at 204 mph. Also poised for the grid are Relentless by TAS Suzuki riders Alastair Seeley from Carrick and ‘The Boat that Guy Built’ television cult figure Guy Martin, from Lincolnshire.
Seeley made history last May as the first local rider to win a North West Superbike race since Phillip McCallen in 1997.
Popular NW200 winner Michael Rutter will be riding for Phil Jessop alongside team-mate Martin Jessop.
The pair are part of the Rapid Solicitors-Bathams Ducati team at this year’s MCE Insurance British Superbikes. Rutter, from the West Midlands, has achieved 21 podium finishes including 12 wins since his NW debut in 1992.
Recent Wilson Craig Racing signings Ballymoney’s William Dunlop and Melbourne rider Cameron Donald will be strong contenders for Superbike podium finishes.
Australian star Donald has been a NW200 regular since 2005 and in 2008 achieved second and third place finishes. William (26) achieved a North West double in 2009 winning the 125cc and 250cc races.
Bruce Anstey from Wellington in New Zealand will this year wear the Padgetts colours and, with 19 podium finishes under his belt including eight wins, is set to be a rostrum contender. Younger Dunlop brother Michael (22) will ride on Paul Bird Motorsport machinery.
Ryan Farquhar and Adrian Archibald have teamed up and both will ride for KMR Kawasaki. Dungannon rider Farquhar has scored 12 podium finishes at the North West including three wins over a 12 year period and last year was crowned Ireland’s most successful road racer with 150 Irish road race wins and topping the Duke Road Race Rankings five times.
Sondel Racing Kawasaki UK are fielding two NW rookie riders, Californian ace and Macau star Jeremy Toye and British Superbike rider Steve Mercer from Kent. Isle of Man competitor Conor Cummins returns following serious injuries at the 2010 TT while Gary Johnston will compete for East Coast Racing.
They’ll all be given a run byJames Hillier, Davy Morgan, Welshman Ian Lougher, William Davison, Denver Robb and Crumlin’s Stephen Thompson.