Alastair Seeley's lucky escape in NW200 build-up
Some of the biggest stars set for the 2016 Vauxhall International North West 200 had their first outings during the recent Cartagena Pro-Test in Spain on the Superbikes they will race at Portrush in May.
Alastair Seeley, the joint-record 15-time North West winner who will be gunning for an unprecedented 16th triumph, debuted his RAF Reserves/Briggs BMW alongside fellow BMW pilots Ian Hutchinson and Michael Dunlop on the Tyco and Buildbase liveried machines.
Seeley had a lucky escape when a pipe leaked oil onto his back tyre, bringing the Carrickfergus man down.
"I didn't realise there was a leak and the bike flicked me off but I got away with just bruising," the 36-year-old said.
Seeley had two BMWs at the test, including one with a special fuel tank and thumb brake fitted, and was able to carry on.
"We are having some issues with the throttle connection on the bike and it is creating a hesitation in the response off the turns," he explained.
"I was starting to feel good before the crash with a better riding position and the bike was better at changing direction. The feeling just isn't there yet to be pushing on for good lap times but we are spinning out the laps and enjoying being back."
NW200 Superstock lap record holder, Ian Hutchinson, rode both Stock and Superbike versions of the S1000RR Tyco BMW. He moved on to Almeria for another few days of testing in good spirits.
"Unless I had a problem with the bike I stayed out there as long as I could," Hutchy said. "I'm comfortable with them and I am ready to race now."
Michael Dunlop was probably the rider who spent most time on track, clocking over 240 laps on his Stock and Superbike Buildbase BMWs. Dunlop will be starting his third season with the German machinery.
"Both of these 2016 BMWs are different from the bikes I have ridden before and they seem to be grand," the Ballymoney man said. "We haven't dialled them in to the last wee bit we want yet but we are making sure everything is running right."
Mar-Train Yamaha's new signing Dan Kneen was making his debut on the Saintfield team's machinery in Spain. The Manxman suffered a huge crash on the R1 Superbike during the opening day but was back in action.
"I'm battered and bruised but there isn't anything broken so I'll mend," he smiled. "We are working on little bits to make it feel more like my bike. We'll have more testing before the North West."
Practice for the 2016 North West begins on May 10 with racing on May 12 and 14.