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North West 200 record not a driving factor: Alastair Seeley

By Paul Lindsay

Published 24/03/2016

Raring to go: Supporting the launch of the 2016 Vauxhall International North West 200 are (front, from left) William Dunlop, Jeremy McWilliams and Ryan Farquhar; back row, Alastair Seeley, Peter Hickman, Conor Cummins, Dan Kneen, Michael Rutter, Lee Johnston and John McGuinness
Raring to go: Supporting the launch of the 2016 Vauxhall International North West 200 are (front, from left) William Dunlop, Jeremy McWilliams and Ryan Farquhar; back row, Alastair Seeley, Peter Hickman, Conor Cummins, Dan Kneen, Michael Rutter, Lee Johnston and John McGuinness

Fans of the Vauxhall International North West 200 came out in their droves to support last night's 'Meet the Riders' event at the Titanic building in Belfast, where they got to meet a plethora of local and international road racing talent - and some fine looking machinery to boot.

The star attraction was joint-record 15-time North West 200 winner Alastair Seeley, who will ride for the RAF Reserves BMW and Gearlink Kawasaki teams at May's showpiece event.

The 'Wee Wizard' is one away from a record-breaking 16th win and he can't wait to roll out with his new teams.

"There's been a lot of talk about first of all getting close to Robert Dunlop's record and then equalling it," said Seeley. "I came into last year's event on 12 wins. I moved joint-second on 13 with Joey Dunlop, then we took two more to join Robert."

Asked if he'd any qualms about surpassing the legendary Dunlop brothers, he said: "I grew up watching Joey and Robert and they were heroes of mine, but we all go racing to win and if I'm honest, getting to 16 is not my goal this year - winning as many races as possible is."

TT legend John McGuinness, who has also won some enthralling races at the Triangle, was also in attendance along with Honda team-mate Conor Cummins, veteran Michael Rutter, Ballymoney's William Dunlop and Dungannon's Ryan Farquhar - who had his new IEG BMW on show.

Others included Mar-Train Yamaha's Dan Kneen, JG Speedfit Kawasaki British Superbike star Peter Hickman and Jamie Hamilton, who finished on the podium in the 2014 Supertwins race before being injured in a Senior TT crash.

Over a thousand fans and the race sponsors packed the Titanic suite to hear Event Director Mervyn Whyte announce significant changes to the race organisation for 2016.

Whyte said: "Everyone would like to see the racing get under way faster so we are making some changes to the grid management. We will run two groups instead of three in each race this year."

These new measures should see Thursday evening's three-race programme and Saturday's five events completed quicker than usual.

Whyte also announced upgrades to the race communications. He said: "We want to keep riders, teams and fans up to date with everything so there will be an extra big screen at the start and finish area and more speakers deployed around the course."

Carrick youngster Glenn Irwin was a revelation at the 2015 North West 200, finishing on the podium in Saturday's Supersport race on his debut.

That performance helped the 26-year-old secure a ride with Paul Bird's BeWiser Ducati squad in the British Superbike Championship this season, and he will be at the Triangle again this year - but perhaps not in a racing capacity.

Having decided to stay away from yesterday's launch, he said: "I'll be there but not to race: my plan is to go to my favourite spot at the Juniper Hill chicane and volunteer as a marshal.

"I thought there was a 50-50 chance to race this year but having spoken to Paul to say I was going to the launch, he told me there was no point as we wouldn't be racing.

"BSB comes first and you can't crave that buzz if its not there. Yes I would have loved to have raced, but this is a great opportunity for me to make a career in British Superbike."

With Bruce Anstey chasing his 16th consecutive season of finishing on the podium and Seeley focused on winning as many times as possible, the 2016 North West promises to be a mouthwatering spectacle for fans and competitors alike.

Belfast Telegraph

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