North West 200: Race day on Saturday, May 19 [photos] Close
Glenn Irwin has won both of the Superbike races at this year's Vauxhall International North West 200 while fellow Carrickfergus man Alastair Seeley grabbed three wins over the course of the week.
Irwin led from the start to the finish in both Superbike races on his PBM Be Wiser Ducati, completing what was a masterclass to add to his success in last year's feature race.
Irwin coasted to victory in this year's feature North West 200, starting well and building his lead throughout the seven lap race, which had been red flagged. No serious injuries were sustained by the rider involved in that incident at the Ballysally Roundabout and when the race restarted, there was only ever going to be one winner.
In the end, Irwin finished 9.962 seconds clear of Michael Dunlop, who was in turn comfortably ahead of Lee Johnston, who won a five-bike race for third.
A bad start put paid to Seeley's hopes of feature race victory, finishing 10th, while Dan Kneen and Peter Hickman were both forced to enter the pits early.
Irwin had started equally well in the first Superbike race, clear from the off. He was pegged back around the half-way stage by an eager Dean Harrison, who cut the gap to less than a second with three laps to go, but Irwin held on to win by 1.017 seconds from Harrison in second and Michael Rutter in third.
That continued a theme of Carrickfergus dominance amid another impressive day for Alastair Seeley.
First, he added the second Supersport title to his Thursday victory, taking his overall NW200 win record to 23. The pack was tight until the penultimate lap, when Seeley pulled clear. Then in the final circuit, he even posted a new lap record of 4:33.864 to finish 5.561 seconds clear of second placed James Hillier and third placed Lee Johnston.
Then the Wee Wizard completed his hat-trick for the week with the most thrilling of Superstock successes. In a race that was for long periods a six-horse affair, Seeley edged out Thursday's Superstock winner Peter Hickman with a pass on Juniper, Dean Harrison completing the podium.
Englishman James Cowton came out on top of a thrilling Supertwin tussle for his first ever NW200 win. At the end of a nip-and-tuck four-lap race between the trio, Joey Thompson led going into the final turn but two stunning passes condemned him to third behind the winner and second-placed Jeremy McWilliams.
Glenn Irwin (Vauxhall International North West 200 Champion)
On his best lap of the race (4.22.945 in lap three): "The perfect lap - I had to do it. The bike was working a dream. I tried to do another perfect lap or two - last time I rode off a little bit but I said I wasn't going to do that this time. I said that I wasn't the rider that's going to launch it to win a race so I wanted to get a gap. Massive thanks to my team - we've had such a good set up all week. I can't thank everyone enough. The team have been phenomenal. We've had a holiday on the North Coast and when you feel like that, you can't help but enjoy it."
On his relationship with Michael Dunlop: "I know people think there's a bit of a feud with Michael Dunlop and that but I look up to him as a road racer and hopefully we can shake hands here and put that one to bed."
On throwing his boots to the crowd: "The boots are away. They were brand new so I'll need another pair. But you find things that fit you perfect - I've only got one set of gloves and the new ones fit me different. I couldn't give those away but it's nice to give the fans something."
On the fans: "The sun's out and everyone's living the dream up here. It's just awesome. The support around the track reminds you of the Joey days again."
Glenn Irwin (Superbike Race One)
"I was riding quite well at the beginning and then I road off a little bit. I tried to put the hammer down and extend the lead, which I was able to do. Then the following lap, I just got a false neutral.
"I'm not going to say I wasn't digging deep there because I was riding flat out. But when you're on your own and you think you've got a big gap, sometimes the brain just doesn't turn on. The bike doesn't miss a beat so it was my fault. It made it exciting for the fans anyway - although I didn't enjoy the last lap."
Alastair Seeley (Supersport Race Two)
"It was a bit like Thursday night. I knew the boys would be there but we bided our time, I had a look coming out of University and there was a bit of a freight-train so I dropped the hammer and pulled the pin. It's nice to get a lap record too.
"I love the 600 class. I feel at home in that class. I love coming back here - the sun's shining, where else would you rather be? We prepare well - where it ends up it will be. I ticked the box for a win every year and anything else is a bonus."
James Cowton (Supertwin Race Two)
"It's been a few years coming. After the race on Thursday, I was so disappointed but that just makes you more determined. It's mega for the team and sets us up nicely to go into the TT. I couldn't fault the bike - the full team have put a mega bike together."
Alastair Seeley (Superstock Race Two)
"I thought I had blown it when I dropped back into the pack but on the last lap I was determined, I wanted it. That Juniper Chicane, I was playing about during the race - inside, outside. I kept them guessing so when it mattered, I've done it before back in 2009, round the outside and got it in. It was sideways on the way in and I just about got it stopped because I heard this morning that if anyone touches the gravel it's a penalty. I made sure to stay away. Fair play Tyco BMW put an awesome package under me.
"It's not payback (for Peter Hickman's late overtake in Thursday's Superstock race). We're out racing. I got duffed up on Thursday and it was my turn today. It's good, tight racing and it was down to the Coast Road. I knew if I got into second I would at least have a chance."
Here's all of Saturday's racing as it happened, beginning with the day's top tens: