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Road king Seeley peerless as he roars to record North West 200 win

By Jim Gracey

Published 13/05/2016

Alastair Seeley on his way to a record-breaking North West victory
Alastair Seeley on his way to a record-breaking North West victory

Another North West, another night of heart in the mouth drama that has now become part and parcel of this high-speed spectacle.

The story of the night's short-lived racing deservedly belongs to history-maker Alastair Seeley who duly delivered his record 16th win in the opening Supersport race, overtaking the late, great Robert Dunlop.

But as we sadly know from the fateful night in 2008 when Robert was tragically taken in a practice crash, the mood can change in a heartbeat in this most high-risk of sports.

Mercifully, after an anxious wait for news, we learned that race veteran Ryan Farquhar and English regular Dan Cooper had miraculously been spared in a frightening crash as their bikes collided, coming out of Dhu Varren and into Black's Hill on the coast road out of Portrush.

It was fearful to watch and a sharp reminder of the high stakes these guys deal themselves in for at the very outer edge of danger.

Despite his injuries, which saw him hospitalised at Belfast's Royal Victoria, with the less severely hurt Cooper taken to the nearby Causeway hospital, Farquhar still had the presence of mind to text his wife, Karen, from a spectator's mobile phone to let her know he had survived, aware Karen, like thousands of others, would have witnessed the collision on the big screens.

Organisers said that neither rider suffered life threatening injuries with Cooper and Farquhar both taken to hospital, the latter talking to the medical team on site.

Earlier in the day Nico Mawhinney from Castledawson crashed at the Mill Road roundabout.

He was transported to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast by air ambulance, highlighting the importance of the facility. His injuries were described as not life-threatening.

So on a sun-basked night that began so promisingly we ended with one race completed with the coronation of Seeley as king of the North West, one race stopped twice and unfinished, and the third scheduled race of the night abandoned altogether.

But thankfully the only pall that hung over this North West last night came in the form of the acrid black smoke from an oil tank blaze at Station Corner that bizarrely stopped the ill-fated second Supertwins race in the first instance. Prompt medical attention, their safety leathers and helmets, and the grace of God delivered Farquhar and Cooper from greater harm but it was serious enough for racing to be abandoned in the fading light.

Their escape put the focus back on history man Seeley and what a magnificent rider he is; a master of his racing craft.

The North West crowd love and cherish riders like him. Sixteen wins around this most devilishly difficult of road racing circuits tells its own tale. He now has no peers on this circuit and such is his racing skill, the fans know that when Seeley emerges from the Metropole corner ahead of the pack on the final lap, he will not be caught.

So it proved again for the 16th time last night and yet, it emerged later, he nearly didn't make it onto the grid at all, having mistaken his start time by 15 minutes. He made it by the skin of his teeth only realising as he mounted his Gearlink Kawasaki that he had forgotten his helmet.

Fiancee Danni came to the rescue in a dash, carrying the helmet. And Danni did it again at the finish, this time producing a commemorative helmet with the number 16 emblazoned on it. While Seeley had diplomatically talked down his record chances all week, his team, and his bride-to-be, knew he would not be beaten and arrived prepared to properly mark the occasion.

Seeley is as impressive a character as he is a rider. He sounded just the right note in his victory interview, acknowledging the overwhelming sense of pride and honour he felt at claiming the record of a North West legend such as Robert Dunlop and, if anything, playing down his own achievement. Clean living, articulate Seeley is a sponsors' dream and this race needs riders like him for the real racing thrill they provide when things go awry. He will be the man to beat again tomorrow, in pole for three of the five races. The day is again set fair weather-wise with huge crowds expected despite the disappointment of last night's curtailment, the reasons for which they fully understood.

With the North West, you learn to expect the unexpected.

Belfast Telegraph

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