Alastair Seeley is the King of the North West 200. He should be wearing a crown not a helmet around the famous 8.9 mile Triangle circuit.
To date the record-breaking Carrickfergus rider has a staggering 24 wins at the spectacular event...that’s way more than iconic motorcycling figures Joey Dunlop, Robert Dunlop and Philip McCallen. No wonder the 42-year-old is called ‘The Wee Wizard’ because when he’s racing on the roads of Portrush magic things happen.
Ask fans of Seeley about his qualities and they’ll talk about his class and craft on the bike. He’s also fiercely determined and has shown down the years he can pass the finishing line first in the Superbike, Superstock and Supersport classes regardless of the manufacturer.
As well as being an outstanding competitor, Seeley is good company. He’s full of fun, telling me that he had Granola Yogurt for breakfast not a McDonald’s McMuffin or Ulster Fry!
“We eat that well at night this week I’d never get into my leathers if I ate a fry in the morning,” says Seeley with a broad smile.
I ask him what it’s like being the most successful North West 200 rider ever.
“Awesome,” he replies, grinning again.
He adds: “It’s a nice label to have and we worked hard to get it. The wins weren’t given to us on the back of a Frosties packet. The teams supplied the bikes and I did the business. I did homework beforehand to get clued in. Some races were very hard to win and some a little handier but they are getting harder now. Everyone is switched on. I think they learnt how I went about things.”
Seeley wasn’t victorious in 2019, the last time the North West took place, but every year from 2008 to 2018 he was a winner.
Quizzed on how he achieved that remarkable level of success and consistency, the former Carrick Grammar School student said: “If you have a wee bit up top it helps. It’s not like you are just getting on a bike, switching on the throttle and pulling the brakes. You need to analyse and study and think about things like what gear for what corner. I’ll not say too much because then I’ll start giving everything else away but you need to use what’s upstairs to help you.”
Seeley will aim to use his road smarts over the course of tonight and on Saturday when he races his IFS Yamahas in the Superbike, Superstock and Supersport categories.
“On Tuesday in our first session, after a few years away from it, it actually took the brain a wee while to get clued in again with some reference points but by the middle of the day we were getting there and I would say on Thursday the lap times will drop again for everyone,” he states.
“The Supersport and Superstock classes at the moment feel pretty good for me. On Tuesday practice where we ended up in the timesheets probably doesn’t reflect how well we felt we were going.
“On Thursday if the roads are dry we will have a good crack at it. If it is there for the taking I will have a go like I always do.”
Seeley’s numbers around the circuit are extraordinary. He says: “Probably when I sit down and retire and look at the trophy cabinet I’ll realise the job that I’ve done.
“There are boys who have been trying to win one race here for years and haven’t done it yet so we count our blessings that we have 24 racked up.
“I’d like to get to 25. I think that is a nicer rounded up number. To get that one to reach 25 would be fantastic and great for IFS Yamaha. This is their first year coming to the event and hopefully we can have a good one and everybody is happy, then we can keep that ball rolling for continuous years and keep coming back and put on a spectacle for the fans, businesses, sponsors, both personal and team.”
The former British Superstock and Supersport champion, who this year has excelled in his defence of his Ulster Superbike and Supersport titles, adds: “My dream was always to get to the very pinnacle, like Moto GP, but obviously you have to roll with what you’ve got and this hasn’t been bad for me as a career.
“I only chose that one road race, the North West 200 and it probably meant I could put a lot of emphasis on that event. The British Championship being across the water definitely sharpens your skills and hones your race craft and close combat with other riders.
“When you come to the North West you are basically bringing what you do at the British Championship over and that’s why you see a lot of BSB boys sort of dominating at the front of the class.”
No one has dominated more than Seeley, surpassing the victories at the event of the legendary Dunlop brothers, Joey and Robert, and McCallen who once won five races in a single day.
“They were the boys when I was growing up. I’d be standing in the hedges and waving programmes at Joey and Robert and was there when McCallen won five. I feel honoured to be mentioned in the same breath as them,” says Seeley.
“It’s nice to see people waving programmes at me now and cheering me on. I even heard that someone named their new pet dog Seeley so when you have that kind of thing it’s great.”
He’s smiling again and chuckling when he says he’d like a statue in his hometown of Carrick. Given his history making achievements he deserves it.
Family means everything to Alistair, who away from the bikes has been working as a postman this year. He talks in glowing terms about receiving sound advice from his dad before races and the invaluable support of fiancee Danielle in his life and quest for success at this year’s North West as well as his love for children Olivia Grace (5) and Lewis (16) who is doing his GCSEs this week.
With road racing of course there can be danger and sadly the Triangle circuit has known tragedy in the past.
Seeley’s take: “Obviously it is a road race and there is plenty of scenery if you were to slip off you wouldn’t want to get that sudden stop at the furniture, as they call it here, around the track.
“We ride to that point where you just try and not overstep the mark. I think it’s about having good machinery under you, the right men getting it set up for you and it being nice and stable and manageable because on a big fast course like this you don’t want the bike to be like a bucking bronco.
“Having a good team around you, getting your bikes well set up and good weather is important and then just crack on and hopefully not worry about the dangers of road racing. It is there and over the years we have had our incidents but hopefully we’ll have an incident free year this time.”