The man who has tamed the North West ‘beast’ with the fastest ever lap around the Triangle circuit won’t be taking anything for granted as this year’s event roars into life tonight.
After months of anticipation, the Relentless International North West 200 in association with Black Horse, gets underway with the opening practice sessions and Steve Plater will be the man most people will tip to top the standings.
In the main four-stroke categories the HM Plant Honda’s Lincolnshire veteran is the man to beat as always.
The father of two is maturing better than most fine wines, and the super fit and meticulous Woodhall Spa professional will be confident of adding to his already impressive tally of eight wins at the Triangle this weekend.
However with changes around the circuit — most notably the new Mather’s Cross chicane — likely to produce a mixed response from the leading competitors, it could be a case of ‘suck it and see’ on the opening night.
Certainly that is the feeling of outright lap record holder Plater.
“The most important thing tonight is to reacquaint myself with the circuit and go and have a look at the new chicane at Mather’s,” he admitted.
“For me Tuesday is just a night to get going and if there’s a chance to post a time then fine, but there’s never usually enough time to do that on the first night. I like to ease back into North West mode when I get here.”
Of the current competitors scheduled to grace the North Coast grid on Saturday, only Relentless by TAS Suzuki’s Bruce Anstey (9) and Ridersmotorcycles.com Ducati pilot Michael Rutter (12) have recorded more top steps than Plater, but with a plethora of youngsters tugging at their ‘apron strings’, all three elder statesmen will need to keep on their toes.
Plater currently leads the National Superstock 1000cc series in the UK after only three rounds. His two wins at Brands Hatch and Thruxton preceded a second place at Oulton Park.
Ironically, given his roll of honour at the North West, the four-stroke class is the only only one he hasn’t conquered, but he’s in the mood to change that statistic.
“I haven’t ridden a Superstock bike that much at the North West,” he explained.
“I feel very comfortable and confident on the bike and we have a good package, but I’m out to win every race I compete in.
“I wouldn’t come here to target just one class — that would be pointless. It’s like the Superbike races, the same riders ride in both races, so they are equally important to me.”
Roads around the circuit will close at 5pm through to 9.30pm, and with inclement weather conditions forecast for Thursday’s all-new daytime session, expect to see some of the leading contenders slipping in some super quick times in all classes tonight.
If you can’t make it to the North Coast , you can tune in live Online at www.bbc.co.uk/nw200 from 7pm to 9pm.