Alastair Seeley is poised to overtake Robert Dunlop after stunning North West 200 wins
Ulster's finest all claimed top steps at a stop-start North West 200, but Alastair Seeley deservedly grabbed the major headlines for a hat-trick of victories, which drew him level with the late, great Robert Dunlop's record 15 victories around the famous course.
A Saturday doubles for Philip Neill's TAS Racing team in the Supersport class, after the Moneymore-based outfit wheeled out, what should have been an uncompetitive GSX-R600, and a breathtaking Superbike victory for Tyco BMW on their factory backed S1000RR, left no-one in any doubt who the modern day King of the Triangle now is as Seeley followed up a Thursday night Supersport win.
Seeley's packed CV now includes Supersport victories at six consecutive North West 200 meetings and two hat-tricks. But it's his current grand total of 15, and the drawing level with Robert Dunlop's all-time record that means so much to the diminutive Carrickfergus gladiator.
Having had time to reflect away from the track with friends and family, Seeley, who now must prepare for a Superstock race this coming weekend as part of the World Superbike meeting at Donington Park, said: "It's been great and the people around the circuit have been nothing but complementary.
"I was in Portrush having a meal last night and the pats on the back and requests for pictures and autographs were still coming. I'll never get tired or complain about that."
Recounting his weekend and the magical number 15, which has dominated every conversation and interview since the opening North West press conference, he added: "It still hasn't sunk in yet. As I said on Saturday after the race, I watched Robert racing at the North West as a fan, along with Joey, and have the utmost respect for their achievements.
"But it's strange as I know I have more years left in me and I still think I can win plenty more races at the North West, so the time to look back and realise how special this is, will be when I retire."
Seeley has been involved in some tough races over the years at the North West 200, but said Saturday's Supersport and Superbike wins rank high. "Glenn Irwin and Lee Johnston rode well in the Supersport race, but the wee Suzuki works really well for me.
"I suppose it's the fact that it hasn't changed much since I won a British championship on it, and whilst it struggles a bit on the opening part of the lap, it makes up for it with a strong gearbox and a chassis that performs superbly on the coast road. That's the place where you need your bike to be strong to win races."
Tyco BMW mounted in the Superbike race, Seeley was in the thick of the action throughout, but unlike Ian Hutchinson who led four of the five laps on his PBM Kawasaki, the Carrick rider looked like the third rung of the podium would possibly be his best result.
Shrugging off the suggestion, he retorted: "Yeah, but you weren't inside my helmet doing the planning!
"BMW Motorrad's S1000RR package is superb. The only thing I struggled with on the bike was the wind, but it did everything better than any other Superbike I've ridden at the North West 200. It has plenty of speed, turns well and is very stable on the brakes, so I did my homework in those opening four laps, found out where I was stronger, then pulled the pin once we hit Magherbuoy on the last lap."
Seeley and Tyco BMW aside, Northern Ireland riders claimed all six race victories at this year's event, with Superstock race winner Lee Johnston the youngest at 26, and former 250cc Grand Prix winner Jeremy McWilliams the eldest at 51.
The Glengormley man took his second North West 200 win in the Supertwin class, outgunning his KMR Kawasaki team boss Ryan Farquhar, who was victorious in the same class on Thursday. "That makes it all worthwhile," said McWilliams afterwards. "It's great to come and get another win at the North West 200."
And Farquhar joked: "Jeremy has picked up his winner's cheque and pension book on the same day."
Carrick's Glenn Irwin made a name for himself on his debut with second place in a thrilling Supersport encounter. Sadly the feature race of the day was abandoned due to strong winds, the right decision in the light of serious injury incidents earlier in the day.