Belfast Telegraph

It all points to another day of pulsating action


Legends reunited: Some 25 years after making his North West 200 debut, Carl Fogarty joined former rival Phillip McCallen at the Meet the Stars event in Coleraine
Legends reunited: Some 25 years after making his North West 200 debut, Carl Fogarty joined former rival Phillip McCallen at the Meet the Stars event in Coleraine
Michael Dunlop

By Phillip McCallen

Penalties, non-qualifying and who’s going to win today have all been on my mind since Thursday night.

Non-qualifying is something that happens in racing worldwide — from MotoGP and BSB to the TT, North West and our other races — where you have to complete five laps before you can start in a race, although organisers have bent over backwards to make sure everybody qualifies.

I even fell foul of the rule at the North West, I think it was 1995 when I was racing a World Thunderbike Championship round in Germany if my memory serves me right.

I arrived at the North West having missed first practice and then my bike seized in what was my only qualifying session and I had not got in my two laps at a certain speed to qualify for the race.

I asked if I could start at the back of the grid and at the Clerk of the Course’s discretion, I was allowed to start — and won the race!

I also remember flying back and forth to Germany with my passport left in the team truck and not being asked for it once — I don’t think I would get away with that nowadays.

It has happened quite a few times at the North West, the precedent had been set and the key word here is ‘discretion’. Why, you may ask?

Well, riders, teams and sponsors pour money and time into getting machines prepared while spectators and sponsors like to see their riders on the grid and racing. Problems can arise, so I believe some leniency should prevail.

A number of riders incurred penalties on Thursday night, and here I’m all for sticking to the rules.

Riders should read the regulations and know the rules. Someday if a rider incurs a penalty, it may suit you — while on another day it may not.

On today’s racing, I believe every single race will be exciting.

The riders have had good qualifying, the bikes are sorted and they had yesterday to make final preparations.

Supersport is Alastair Seeley territory, he’s a master of the class, but I don’t believe the others will let him make the break he made on the last lap to win on Thursday and I expect a four or five-rider battle.

My 10 pence is on Peter Hickman doubling up in Superstock. He will want to win again having got his first North West triumph in Thursday’s race after a bit of Juniper Chicanery with Seeley and Michael Dunlop. It will be another close race.

The Superbike races look set to be thrillers.

Last year’s final race was superb and if Michael Dunlop’s Tyco BMW is up to the job, he will be in the ball park.

There were three in the battle last year and I believe it could be five or six today. All things, I believe, point to Irwin winning again. He has a brilliant bike, he has the bravery, runs close to or at the front of BSB, and should be beating these others today.

I have to go for Martin Jessopp again in Supertwins, with Jeremy McWilliams, Adam McLean, James Cowton, Joey Thompson and Derek McGee — if he gets his KMR Kawasaki sorted — all fighting for a podium, more of the same from Thursday night.

I have heard some say, ‘I’m just using the North West as practice for the TT’ or ‘I’m trying my bikes out for the TT’. I don’t like that sort of talk. I’m on my hobby-horse here, but it is insulting to race organisers, team sponsors and the public who turn up to watch a full-blooded race, not to watch people hanging back thinking of another event.

I used the North West for practice for the TT by winning — that’s the best practice you can get. There, I’ve got that off my chest.

Finally, how long can Seeley keep his winning run going at the North West?

I believe that he has a good few years in him yet. He has good mental and physical condition and as long as he keeps them and gets good machinery, he can remain competitive. You don’t forget how to ride.

I would like to finish by wishing officials, competitors, teams and spectators a safe and terrific dry day’s racing.

Belfast Telegraph


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