What an opening race at the Vauxhall North West 200 — a seven man freight train of Supersport machines using every inch of the road with Martin Jessopp taking his first ever North West victory after six hectic laps.
t the end of the first lap Ian Hutchinson — on a brand new TTC Yamaha that he hadn’t seen until Tuesday morning — led Yeovil’s Jessopp, Michael Dunlop, Alastair Seeley, Dean Harrison, Lee Johnston, William Dunlop and James Hillier, two seconds separating them as they flashed through the finish area.
Hot favourite Seeley was forced to retire into the pits at the end of lap two with an electrical problem, the Gearlink Kawasaki rider saying: “I started to lose power on lap two and the bike started cutting out and I just nursed it in as it’s not safe to ride in a close group with the bike cutting out.”
Jessopp, with the fastest lap to date of 114.548mph, led lap two from Hutchinson, Harrison and Johnston before Hutchy hit back to lead at half distance from Harrison, Jessopp, Johnston, William Dunlop and Michael Dunlop with James Cowton in ninth position at 114.917mph.
Jessopp made a break at the front on lap four with a lap of 115.551mph, with Hillier jumping from sixth to second, Hutchy third and Harrison fourth, with eight riders still in with a chance.
Onto the last lap and Jessopp was 1.128secs ahead of Hutchy, Hillier, Harrison, Johnston and the Dunlops, William ahead.
At the chequered flag Jessopp held off Hutchy by 0.772secs to take his first North West 200 win and international road race victory.
Hillier was 0.457secs behind Hutchinson with Harrison setting the fastest lap of the race at 116.423mph, Johnston fifth, William Dunlop sixth and Michael seventh.
Guy Martin, in his North West 200 comeback on Wilson Craig’s Honda, was a disappointing 23rd.
An overwhelmed Jessopp said: “I’m lost for words.
“We are a family team, no big sponsors and this is great for the boys that are over with me, even more of a shock given I haven’t ridden this bike since the TT last year.”
Hutchy was happy with second, commenting: “I could not stay in the slipstream on the first half of the lap, but catching them in the second half.
“It’s an okay result given I didn’t see the bike until Tuesday morning.”
HEL Performance Supersport Race: 1st M. Jessopp avg speed 114.974mph, 2nd I. Hutchinson 114.921, 3rd J. Hillier 114.890, 4th D. Harrison 114.874, 5th L. Johnston 114.849, 6th W. Dunlop 114.749. Fastest Lap: Harrison – 4m 37.368s – 116.423mph
Bayview Hotel Superstock Race: 1st A. Seeley avg speed 122.129mph, 2nd L. Johnston 121.162, 3rd D. Harrison 120.997, 4th I. Hutchinson 119.708, 5th M. Jessopp 119.693, 6th J. Hillier 118.453. Record Lap: Seeley - 4m 22.755s – 122.898mph
Vauxhall Supertwin Race: 1st M. Jessopp avg speed 109.683mph, 2nd M. Rutter 109.604, 3rd I. Lintin 108.246, 4th D. Cooper 108.020, 5th D. Sheils 106.699, 6th A. McLean 106.383. Record Lap: Jessopp – 4m 52.439s – 110.423mph