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NW200 king Seeley admits he's facing an unclear future

By Paul Lindsay

Published 05/11/2016

Out in front: Alastair Seeley going through the gears at the North West 200
Out in front: Alastair Seeley going through the gears at the North West 200

Vauxhall International North West 200 record win holder Alastair Seeley, who raised his career total at the North Coast event to 17 back in May, has voiced his uncertainty for the future as he currently seeks employment for the 2017 season.

The 37-year-old Carrickfergus ace, who won both Supersport races at this year's event, is currently considering his options, and was honest when he told the Belfast Telegraph in an exclusive interview: "The way things are going, I may have to consider going back to working full-time as a mechanic."

A drastic career move indeed for the diminutive double British champion, who also became the first local rider in 13 long years to win a Superbike race on the North Coast when he stood on the top step for TAS Racing back in 2010.

But after a tough season in the British Superbike Championship with the RAF BMW team, Seeley is now considering his options.

But no one has been firmly knocking on the North West 200 kingpin's door with an attractive offer.

"It's a case of thinking, 'where is the next job coming from?'," said Seeley.

"To go back to the Superbike class is probably not ideal for me, as I was there in 2012 and went back this season with the RAF boys and, in all honesty, they weren't great years for me.

"Personally, I'd like to go back to either the British Supersport or Superstock class, where I've either won a Championship or finished runner-up since as far back as 2009."

Seeley, who despite those impressive statistics on his CV, as well as those all-important 17 wins at the NW200, is not seeing a lot of excitement from teams and managers.

He continued: "I'm not sure if it's the CV that doesn't seem to excite the teams any more, or it's purely down to the whole dynamic that the British Championship has changed, and there's no one prepared to pay riders - despite who you are - in those supporting classes."

So what are the realistic options for the Carrickfergus ace, whose fiancée Danni is expecting their first child in spring?

"We will not starve," said Seeley, who has a son, Lewis, from a previous relationship and has been operating as a full-time professional racer since his opening foray in the British Championship back in 2008, with a smile.

"Ultimately I've been riding bikes and making a living from it for a number of years and I certainly don't think I'm finished yet.

"But yes, things have changed from the early days. I always said that if I had to pay for a ride, it would be time to call it a day as I have a mortgage, my son Lewis and the upcoming new arrival to think about.

"Yes it's quite quiet at the minute, and I'm not worrying about it too much, but come the NEC show at the end of November, if things don't change, I must admit I will start to think, 'where am I with this?'"

Looking ahead, he was keen to add: "There's a possibility I could stay with the RAF BMW guys and ride in the Superstock class for them in 2017.

"Things maybe didn't work out for various reasons in BSB this year, but I was on pole position at the NW200 on their bikes, so that's something I need to explore further and I know I could be a Championship contender."

The North West 200 has always been the Wee Wizard's ace card when negotiating contracts, but in recent years the North Coast event sadly seems to have lost some of its kudos with the bigger teams and manufacturers, whose main focus is now based on that little jewel in the Irish Sea; the Isle of Man TT.

It's not an event that Seeley has ever contemplated competing at, but he is always ready to stand up and promote the North West 200; his local event, and one that he is always proud to return and compete in.

"I remember taking that Superbike win back in 2010, making me the first local rider to have won a big bike race from home since Phillip McCallen in 1997," said Seeley.

Recounting the spine-tingling experience, he said: "I could hardly hear myself think, as the crowd were cheering me like you'd see at a football match.

"I got so caught up in the moment I actually threw my gloves into the grandstand, then realised I still had one race to go," laughed Seeley, who is currently working on a DVD edit of his 17 North West 200 wins with a local company.

Fitness, dedication and discipline have never been an issue for Seeley, but he would be the first to admit that his "old school attitude" - as he calls it - may not have attracted the sort of personal sponsorship that other racers have gleaned over the years.

"I certainly don't think I'm finished in terms of North West 200 wins," he said. "Last year when the record was up for grabs, there was a lot of interest from sponsors and teams. My phone was red hot as they knew the exposure they would get if I set a new stand-alone record, which we ended up doing.

"Now that it's done, I feel it has all gone a bit quiet, but my goal now is to push on towards 20 wins at the North West. I'm hoping some local companies and sponsors would like to be part of that."

In the past, a North West 200-liveried race team was run as part of the events' marketing mix in the British Championship.

With a local rider now holding the NW200 record and competing full-time in the British Championship, maybe the event organisers and Government need to look at reciprocating the support that Seeley has shown the event since his first appearance in 2008.

Belfast Telegraph

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