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Valentine will get back into gear at North West

By Paul Lindsay

Iconic Italian manufacturer MV Agusta, made famous by none other than fifteen time world champion Giacomo Agostini, will make a welcome return to the Vauxhall North West 200 with respected team owner Jack Valentine – who will resurrect his Valmoto brand at the May showpiece.

The former Crescent Suzuki World Superbike team manager and his old sparring partner Steve Mellor will run Lincolnshire TT winner Gary Johnson on the all-new 675cc MV Agusta F3, and the big Jack is confident of their podium chances on May 18.

"We wont be coming to make up the numbers," he explained, when confirming that the three-cylinder machine would be making its road racing debut on the North Coast.

He added: "I am only focussing my efforts on the three big international road races this year and I'm confident that the 675cc MV will be capable of a podium at the North West 200 with Gaz in the saddle."

Valentine and Mellor took the unfancied British build 675cc Triumph to success at the Isle of Man TT a decade ago, with Kiwi Bruce Anstey; and two weeks previous, Anstey put the very same machine on the North West 200 Supersport podium.

With Mellor's engine building pedigree, the support of the MV Agusta factory, and shared data with World Supersport team ParkinGo – not forgetting Johnson's obvious talent on a motorcycle – it could well result in a popular top step for the Valmoto guys.

The ever pragmatic Johnson is delighted at getting the opportunity to ride the three-cylinder Italian machine, which really is a work of art, and said: "MV has great racing heritage and the bike looks a million dollars," he grinned.

"I just hope it rides as well as it looks, but Jack is one of the most experienced team owners in the industry and has a first class reputation and a proven track record," he added.

Johnson (pictured) will also campaign a Honda Fireblade in the Superbike races at the North West, and has selected Kawasaki's ultra-fast ZX-10R for the Superstock class.

It's a move away from purely Honda machinery for the 30-year-old who will not be competing in the British championship this season – instead preferring to do his own thing and concentrate on having success on the roads.

He explained: "I raced three meetings in South Africa just after the New Year and will be back in Spain shortly to test the MV, so I will have had plenty of quality bike time before the North West. I want to just do my own things with my own mechanic and sponsors and I'm confident we will have a strong package.

"I may also race a Kawasaki Supertwin at the North West for local man Billy McKinstry."

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