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Irwin is confident he can repeat his 2017 north coast heroics


By Roy Harris

If Thursday is anything to go by, we are in for a dramatic day of high-speed action at the Vauxhall International North West 200.

The three races on Thursday evening had three different winners, and the action was pulsating.

So, who will be going home with the silverware and grabbing the headlines this afternoon?

In the two Superbike races, fractions of a second cover the first two rows of the grid.

Last year’s hero Glenn Irwin will be on pole on the PBM Be Wiser Ducati, with the Silicone Kawasaki of Dean Harrison — chasing his first North West victory — a mere 0.066 seconds behind, and Michael Dunlop — on his Triangle debut for Tyco BMW — a further 0.028 seconds back.

Alastair Seeley — the 22-time North West 200 winner — heads up row two just 0.7 seconds behind his new Tyco BMW team-mate Dunlop, with the second row completed by wily veteran Michael Rutter on the Bathams BMW and Thursday’s Supertwin race winner Martin Jessopp on the Riders BMW.

Peter Hickman, Conor Cummins, Lee Johnston, James Hillier and David Johnson line up on rows three and four and are all capable of causing an upset.

Irwin is confident he can repeat his victory from a year ago.

“The Ducati is a match for the BMW and the Kawasakis. We have proven we can win around here, but once again it will be hard to shake off Seeley, Dunlop and Harrison if I am to repeat the win that upped my status in road racing considerably,” said the 28-year-old Carrick rider.

The Superstock series is also set to produce fireworks after Thursday’s Juniper Hill battle between winner Hickman, Seeley and Michael Dunlop.

Seeley said: “That used to be my line at Juniper that Hicky took, but it’s part and parcel of every weekend at BSB, so no problem. I’ll just have to re-think my strategy for Saturday.”

Rutter could well be a dark horse for a podium, as well as Harrison and Hillier, who climbed onto the podium for the first time after the Supersport race on Thursday.

Lots of riders will be looking for a better run in today’s opening Supersport race after the first lap on Thursday at Mill Road roundabout, when Jessopp ran in too hot, hit the safety bale and blocked the road momentarily with half the field forced to take the straight through route.

In the end, Seeley took win No.22 after a sixth and final fastest lap, finishing two seconds clear of Hillier with Johnston third.

Johnston said: “I fell asleep for a few laps and Alastair got the drop on us. I can’t allow that on Saturday.” 

Jessopp must be favourite for a second Supertwin win today, although Jeremy McWilliams would like to be closer to the Riders Kawasaki man on his KMR version.

James Cowton, Adam McLean and Joey Thompson on his extremely rapid Paton will all be chasing a podium berth.

Thousands of fans will line the streets for today’s action, so the advice is to get there early if you want a good vantage point.

Also taking place today will be a parade lap by record-breaking three-in-a-row World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea, who is expected to stop several times for pictures and autographs.

Race Schedule

Saturday, May 19 - 9:15am to 7pm: Roads closed for racing

Race 1: Supersport Race 1 - 6 laps

Race 2: Superbike Race 1 - 7 laps

Race 3: Supertwin Race 1 - 4 laps

Race 4: Superstock Race 2 - 6 laps

Race 5: NW200 Superbike Race 2 - 7 laps

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