North West 200: Wee Wizard Alastair Seeley weaves magic with a Super 18th Triangle win
Alastair Seeley was in record-breaking form in the Superstock race at the North West 200 last night. He won the race, his record-breaking 18th victory, set a new class lap record of 122.898mph and equalled Phillip McCallen’s 25-year-old podium record of 28.
The ‘Wee Wizard’ had a scare early in the race, saying: “I hit a false neutral at Ballysally on lap two and freewheeled onto a small footpath before re-joining the track and giving chase to race leader Michael Rutter and Lee Johnston.”
Seeley had led Rutter at the end of the first lap of six, both clear of Dean Harrison, Johnston, Martin Jessopp, Peter Hickman, Ian Hutchinson, Horst Saiger and James Hillier.
This race started without Guy Martin, who had been withdrawn by Honda following the John McGuinness accident in Superbike qualifying.
The organisers impounded McGuinness’s bike and Honda could not inspect the machine to determine the cause of the crash, so on safety grounds they withdrew Martin from the six lap race.
Rutter had a half second lead on lap two, but the Bathams BMW rider was forced to retire at Mathers Cross with an engine problem on lap three handing the lead to Seeley who ended the lap with a 1.945secs advantage over Johnston who was locked in battle with his good mate Harrison.
They were 10 seconds clear of Hutchinson and Jessopp, separated by less than half a second.
On lap five Seeley distanced himself from the rest, setting a new lap record of 122.898mph to go 5.8secs clear of the duelling Johnston and Harrison.
At the chequered flag Seeley was 12 seconds clear of Johnston, who went two seconds ahead of Harrison with Hutchinson over 17 seconds back in fourth, the Tyco BMW man two 10ths ahead of Jessopp.
Seeley was a happy man after his Supersport disappointment, saying: “I’m delighted. That’s my 10th consecutive year winning a race at the North West.
“Hopefully I can add another to my 18 wins in total come Saturday. It was terrific to re-join the Tyco BMW Team who I have rode on and off for over the years and I’m always welcomed back by Hector and Philip Neill.
“This was the 25th North West victory — they supply the machines, I’m just the jockey.”
Joint team owner Hector Neill said: “That gives us something to celebrate tonight.”
Johnston said: “I took this BMW out of the bosses’ office. It’s my 2015 winning bike and it’s great to be back on the podium here after a bad year in 2016.
“After last year I was happy with that podium. It was a good scrap with my best mate Dean.”
Harrison was well pleased with his podium, saying: “That was a nice wee battle with my mate. We gave each other plenty of room. I’ve been coming here for years and this is my first podium. I have at last beaten the bad luck I’ve had in the past.”
In the concluding Supertwins four-lap race Jessopp made it a double, but not before a scare from Rutter on the last lap.
Jessopp had a 1.4secs lead over Rutter on lap one, extended by half a second on lap two, but on lap three Rutter, with a new lap record of 110.131mph — the first Supertwin lap over 110mph — closed to just three 10ths of a second to Jessopp.
Halfway around the last lap Jessopp looked around and was shocked to see Rutter on his back wheel, but the West Country rider put his head down and with another lap record of 110.423mph he clung on to win by 0.848secs from Rutter’s Ryan Farquhar KMR IEG Kawasaki.
Rutter now joins McCallen and Seeley on 28 North West 200 podiums.
The pair were 15 seconds clear of Ivan Lintin.
Jessopp, after his second victory of the evening, said: “I just cannot believe it.
“No podiums last year and now two wins.
“This win is for the team who worked feverishly to get me here.
“I glanced back and almost jumped out of my seat when I saw Michael so close!
He added: “I got the head down on that last lap. I’m over the moon.”