Belfast Telegraph

British winner Cooper cannot wait to make his road race bow at NW200


By Roy Harris

Buildbase Suzuki rider Richard Cooper is set to make his road racing debut at the fonaCAB International North West 200 in association with Nicholl Oils between May 12-18.

Celebrating its 90th birthday this year, securing Cooper's entry on factory-supported GSXR 1000RRs in Superbike and Superstock is a major coup for North West 200 organisers.

The 35-year-old from Nottingham was the winner of the final British Superbike showdown race at Brands Hatch back in October.

He then impressed local fans by completing a hat-trick of Superbike wins - including the Sunflower Trophy - on his Bishopscourt debut a week later, before he travelled overnight to Mallory Park where he won the Race of the Year the next day.

Having visited the North West 200 circuit last week, Cooper said: "I have a lot of experience in bike racing, but road racing is one of the things I haven't done. We are about to sort that now."

Cooper has been a journeyman of motorcycle racing. Since his debut at Mallory Park back in 1999 riding Honda Hornets, he has raced around the world in various series including the BMW Motorrad Boxer Cup, AMA Formula Extreme, American Sportsbike, Endurance Racing, Dutch and Hungarian Superbike and Superstock Championships, Daytona 200, KTM 990 SuperDuke, Yamaha R1 Cup and Thundersport GB.

He won the British Superstock 1000cc Championship in 2011, a series which he will again contend this year.

On what enticed him to make plans for a road race debut, the diminutive Cooper said: "Riders say road racing is like a drug, but I won't know whether or not I'll be addicted until I try it. Being safe is very important, but I'm a racer and even in year one I won't be there just to ride around. I'm not going to the North West 200 just to break anyone's fastest newcomer record."

The Stuart and Steve Hicken Suzuki squad will have base settings for the circuit having fielded Michael Dunlop on a GSXR in the 2017 North West, while Cooper has already completed several exploratory laps of the famous 8.9-mile Triangle with eight-time North West 200 winner Steve Plater.

Cooper added: "I have always been able to adapt to new circuits quickly and I believe in my own ability. I'm old enough and wise enough to approach racing on the roads in the right way.

"I've raced against and beaten the likes of Glenn Irwin and Alastair Seeley in British Championship races, but I'm making no predictions about the North West. Maybe they will see me as a threat. I know how fast the Suzuki will be in a straight line."

Event Director Mervyn Whyte MBE said: "It's exciting to have a BSB rider of Richard's ability and experience making his road race debut at the North West. It will be enthralling to watch him go head-to-head with established stars like Dunlop, Irwin, Seeley, Rutter, Harrison and Hickman."

Belfast Telegraph

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