Belfast Telegraph

Seeley won't ease off gas with a giant year in store

Alastair eyes NW200 win record and big British Superbike impact

By Paul Lindsay

Carrickfergus ace Alastair Seeley is a double British champion, plying his trade in the British Superbike paddock for the past seven seasons, but as he relaxes under the Spanish sun during a break from pre-season testing, he keenly acknowledges: "The North West 200 put me on the map."

And it's at the Triangle where he aims to race to a record-breaking 16th victory around the famous course this coming May.

The 36-year-old currently sits top of the win table on 15 - joint equal with the late, great Robert Dunlop - but 'Wee Wizard' Seeley, who will ride for the RAF Reserves BMW and Gearlink Kawasaki teams at this year's event, is out to make the record his own.

"There's been a lot of talk for the past few years about first of all getting close to Robert's record and then equalling it," said Seeley.

"I came into last year's event on 12 wins and moved joint second on 13 with Joey (Dunlop) after my win on the Thursday night. Then we took two more on Saturday to join Robert on 15."

Asked if surpassing the legendary Dunlop brothers might ignite mixed emotions, he said: "I grew up watching Joey and Robert and like most racers from home they were heroes of mine, but we all go racing to win and if I'm honest, getting to 16 is not the height of my ambitions this year - winning as many races as possible is the aim.

"That's been the goal since I won my first race at the North West back in 2008. But, yes, I would like to make the record my own this year."

Since that maiden victory aboard Jimmy Murray's Yamaha in the Superstock class, Seeley has been an ever-present recipient on the top step of the North West 200 podium.

It's an ominous statistic for his rivals, such is his strength in depth in all classes, but it's in the Supersport class where he has been the most successful with seven wins in the past five seasons.

"It's been a while since I looked at the stats, but I suppose the Supersport class has been good to me, even though it's the probably the toughest to win," he noted.

It's often been said that apart from racing motorcycles, the only other thing the majority of riders are proficient at is counting money.

Seeley laughs at the suggestion before adding: "The Superbike class is where the money is at, but a win is a win at the North West and it's getting harder right across the board."

Seeley has taken NW200 wins for a number of local teams since 2008, but the majority have come in the colours of Hector and Philip Neill's Moneymore-based TAS Racing team - in various guises from Relentless Suzuki to Tyco BMW.

So the switch of BMW allegiance for 2016 to the RAF Reserves squad may have come as a bit of shock to some, with various rumours and explanations circulating. Seeley was keen to put the record straight.

"I was very comfortable in the Tyco BMW set-up with Philip and Hector. We had loads of wins around the North West and also grabbed a couple of British championships. On top of that, the boys in the team have all become good mates, but getting a chance to go back into the British Superbike class was too good an offer to turn down," he said candidly.

"The age I am now (36), there are not too many opportunities to go and ride a competitive Superbike, so when the RAF boys contacted me, I decided to move on, although I'm happy to be on the BMW again."

Unlike many of his rivals, the Ulsterman's decision of where to ride each season always includes a two-fold thought process, with the North West 200 very much on equal terms to the British championship, despite it only taking up one week of his racing calendar each year.

"It's important to me to have strong machinery for the North West but it's worked out quite well," he said. "The RAF team had success last year on the roads with Peter Hickman and in terms of the Supersport class, I had my choices but chose Gearlink Kawasaki as I know from previous experience that it's a great package."

Seeley is proud to come from County Antrim's oldest town with the famous castle its renowned landmark.

"I live a pretty simple life, which is the case for most people with kids in Northern Ireland," said the diminutive Seeley, who can often be seen walking his boxer dog Biffer or hidden away spinning the spanners for his nine-year-old son Lewis, who is following in his dad's footsteps.

"I enjoy spending time with Lewis and his interest in motocross keeps me busy these days, as I like his bike to be prepared well. But then I also need to set time aside for the missus (how he affectionately refers to fiancée Danni Henry, who he met in the British championship racing paddock).

"We've bought a new house together and that's another project, decorating and gardening, but apart from relaxing at night watching Game of Thrones, which is a favourite of ours, I don't do anything extreme.

"It's all based around preparation for racing on a weekend or a new season - so there's still quite a bit of sacrifice; then there's the school runs, so I'm kept busy."

Having been runner-up in a British championship class in the past three seasons, the straight talking racer is fully aware that 2016 will be a different proposition, back in the premier British Superbike class. But, like his RAF backers, his sights are trained in readiness.

"I don't feel 36. I've looked after myself over the years. I was a car mechanic for 13 years so I'm not scared of having to work again, but not just yet," he smiled.

"I learned a lot from Steve Plater, who was the main man before me at the North West 200. He's gone on to stay involved in the sport as a commentator and consultant after a successful career, so maybe when I finish I can do something similar.

"But for now I want to keep enjoying my racing, get into that top six in BSB and keep adding to this North West 200 tally. I'm certainly not over the hill just yet."

Belfast Telegraph

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