North West 200: Seeley on top of the world
Alastair Seeley may be small in stature, but he put on a stunning display of riding at Saturday’s Relentless North West 200 in association with Blackhorse becoming the first Irishman in 13 years to win a Superbike race, winning a thrilling first Supersport race and riding to a third and two fourths in his three other races.
Seeley, better known in racing circles as the ‘wee wizard’ broke the domination of visiting riders in the feature Greenline North West 200 Superbike race after an enthralling battle with fellow BSB competitor Stuart Easton and John McGuinness.
McGuinness led at the end of lap one, but by the new chicane at Mathers Cross Seeley, coming from the third row of the grid, had pushed the Relentless Suzuki by TAS into the lead with just .8sec separating the flying trio at the end of lap two as Ian Hutchinson, Guy Martin, Keith Amor and Michael Rutter dropped off the fast pace of the three front runners.
Seeley tried to make a break on lap three with a new lap record of 121.875mph, but despite taking a 1.1sec advantage onto the fourth and final lap Easton did not settle for second closing right onto Seeley and taking a momentarily lead at Metropole only for the Carrickfergus rider to retake the lead immediately at Church Corner and open up a race winning gap along the Coast Road taking the chequered flag 1.14secs ahead of Easton with McGuinness just a tenth behind in third.
Six seconds further back was Martin with Hutchinson and Amor completing the top six.
A delighted Seeley celebrated in style, throwing his race gloves into the packed grandstand in appreciation of the reception he got as the first local rider since Phillip
McCallen in 1997 to savour the glory of winning a North West 200 Superbike race.
Seeley said afterwards: “That was the big one, the race everybody wants to win at North West. I think I must have got out of the right side of the bed this morning.
“The North West was one of my main priorities this season along with the BSB championship and I’m over the moon to have done so well for Relentless since they are overall sponsors of the event and the TAS Suzuki Team.
“I got a good start and got to the front, but I knew they would come back at me. Stuart got past me on the last lap, but I knew I was stronger on the Coast Road and managed to get back in front at Church and keep it together to get my maiden international superbike win.”
The opening Yoko Superbike race suffered a rain-delayed start and a lottery for riders as to what tyres to use with the roads drying rapidly.
Reduced from five to four laps Amor led the way to York Hairpin on lap one, but by the end of the lap it was the McAdoo Kawasaki
of Conor Cummins in the lead from McGuinness, Amor, Bruce Anstey, Seeley and Easton.
On lap two Easton hit 202mph through the speed trap as Ryan Farquhar retired an ill-handling MSS Colchester Kawasaki and McGuinness, confident that the roads were dry the whole way, round took the lead with Seeley closing in on the leading trio.
On the fourth and final lap Seeley lapped at 120.985mph to edge past Amor, but ran out of time to get any higher as McGuinness took the chequered flag two-tenths of a second ahead of Cummins, who was on the rostrum for the first time at the North West with Seeley a further three-tenths back in third also securing his first Superbike rostrum at the Triangle.
McGuinness said: “That was a sweet victory. I won a two-lap Superbike race in 2007, but this feels more like a real win. It was a wise decision to delay the race start and let the roads dry out.
“I ran cut slicks, had a good look at the track on the first lap, saw it was dry and knew I could push on although Conor was on my case throughout. In the end I held him off for probably one of my best wins on the roads.”