North West 200: Seeley puts marker down for record 25th title with strong time in qualifying
What a mouth-watering prospect Saturday’s Superbike races at the fonaCAB International North West 200 in association with Nicholl Oils are shaping up to be, with record 24-time winner Alastair Seeley at the event having the plum ride on the PBM Be Wiser Ducati V4RR.
The Ducati has already been proving its worth as the machine that took Alvaro Bautista to the first 11 World Superbike race wins of the season and Josh Brookes to an Oulton Park BSB double in the last round.
Of course, our four-time World SBK champion Jonathan Rea beat the all-conquering Ducati twice at the weekend for the first time, so the scene could be set here for another Kawasaki-Ducati battle at the North West.
The Carrickfergus rider ended the first Superbike qualifying session in third position, 1.6secs behind Dean Harrison — the fastest man yesterday.
Seeley (right) said: “It wasn’t 100% first time out, but not a disaster with a bit of a weave at high speed. We changed a few things and went back out and it was a definite improvement.
“You’ve got to remember this is a brand-new motorcycle still being developed with a lot more to come from it. It was certainly an eye-opener stepping off the EHA Supersport Yamaha and onto the Ducati.
“I had to find a few new braking points. I’m happy and the team’s happy after today, and we put together a run of seven laps race distance on the rear tyre and all looked good.”
On being asked why he picked Alastair for the ride on the bike at the North West, team owner Paul Bird was straight to the point.
“He is the most successful North West rider, so it was a no-brainer really as we only go racing to win.”
Seeley added: “There are a lot of fast riders out there with good teams around them and it will not be easy to add to my tally of wins, but we’ll be giving it our best shot.”
On his Supersport mount, Seeley was top of the class after the 40-minute session on the EHA Yamaha and keen to repeat his double of last year for Edward and Gail Allingham.
“I’ve been riding this bike at British Supersport and have had four second place finishes in the first two rounds, no wins yet so we’ll try to rectify that.”
Of Seeley’s 24 race victories at the North West, the first of which coming in 2008, 12 have come in Supersport, eight in Superstock and four in the Superbike class.
He would dearly love to add another Superbike race to that total, and this week he has the tools to do the job.