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North West 200: Wee Wizard on right track to be new king

By Phillip McCallen

The best laid battle plans rarely survive beyond first contact with the enemy.

At the start of this week at the North West 200, before an engine had been fired up, I felt there wasn't a hair's breadth between the top riders in terms of winning potential to the extent that no single rider looked capable of dominating and that as many as 10 riders would have designs on occupying the podium top step.

Nine of those fancied riders will likely have arrived on the same wavelength only to see their battle plans ripped apart by that formidable little foe, Alastair Seeley.

The Wee Wizard from Carrick isn't so much a Top 10 hit as the North West's new No.1.

Boy has he been on song this week and going into Race Day, he now stands just two wins short of Robert Dunlop's all time North West record of 15 wins. And, from a personal perspective, if Thursday night's halted Superstock race can be fitted into today's schedule, Alastair can match my own proud record of five wins in a day that has stood since 1992.

He goes in two Superstock, two Superbike and a Supersport race today and I wish him well, though five wins is a big ask, ever for a rider of his ability.

Yet, having watched all the leading contenders in practice this week, I quickly and dramatically revised my opinion to the firm belief that this North West can indeed belong to one man... Seeley.

Thursday night's performance in winning the Supersport reinforced that view and I won't be surprised if he does scorch to a minimum hat-trick of wins around the famous Triangle course and make history in the process by overtaking the late, great Robert's record 15 North West wins.

He is the man to beat and the one the crowds will most want to cheer home today.

All the elements are in place for a Seeley coronation.

He is the best equipped rider, both mechanically and mentally. My observation that there was so little between the top 10 riders was an accurate one. And when you find yourself in company like that, where spliit-seconds count, you look for anything that will give you an edge.

Alastair is a class rider, there's no doubt about that, but where he scores over the others is his familiarity - with the course, his bikes and his team.

It's the extra weapon in his armoury the others do not possess, just yet.

For many leading riders, this North West has been about getting to grips with new bikes, getting to know new team set-ups and generally finding their way around.

In sharp contrast, Alastair is comfortable with his bikes, his Tyco team and himself; riding and winning Superstock races in the British Championship this season. The Supersport 600 is the same bike he's won on here before, only with a bit more power.

In the Superbikes he'll start with a two and half second lead over Lee Johnston - at this level that's a country mile.

Rivals like Bruce Anstey and Michael Dunlop are catching up fast, but they need more miles. If the rest don't get themselves and their machines right, it could be a procession, led by Seeley.

It couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

And, finally, a word of praise for the race organisers, the Coleraine Motor Club and race chief, Mervyn Whyte. They have lifted this event onto a different plane, on and off the track, and it was great to see the fans respond with the best Thursday night turnout since the innovation four years ago.

Let's hope Mervyn, the fans and, above all, the riders are blessed with the brilliant day's racing their dedication deserves.

Schedule

The revised schedule for racing at the 2015 Vauxhall International North West 200 is as follows (roads close 9.30am, racing begins at 10.30am).

Race 1: Spidi Superstock race 6 laps

Race 2: Betmclean.com Supersport Race 6 laps

Race 3: Monster Energy Superbike Race 7 laps

Race 4:The Anchor Portstewart Supertwin Race 4 laps

Race 5: CP Hire Superstock Race 6 laps

Race 6: Vauxhall NW200 Superbike Race 7 laps

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