Belfast Telegraph

North West 200: Stage has been set for a day of top-quality action

By Phillip McCallen

It’s been 25 years since I won five races in a day at the North West 200 but it seems like only yesterday. Those memories remain so fresh in my mind but looking back now to 1992, it feels like a dream.

I won the first race and it was a case of a good job done, but then it was onto the next race and you didn’t have time to dwell on it because you were so focused on what was coming next.

I remember being so exhausted, both mentally and physically drained, and it didn’t really sink in until the following morning when I read the Sunday newspapers. Back then when you didn’t have all of these smart phones, the internet and social media, Sunday newspapers were huge; everyone read them to catch up on all the reports and see the photographs for the first time.

I used to buy half a dozen papers on Sundays and I’d cut out the articles that I was featured in to post off to my sponsors.

I knew I had done a really good job winning all those races, but it was really only when I opened the papers that it began to hit home. I was on the front pages, the middle pages and the back pages. I was a little shocked by it and I remember thinking, ‘Did I really do that?’

No one had ever won four races in a day, but I had won five. I began to realise that it was a pretty special achievement and at that time, we had World champions, British champions and European champions all racing at the North West, so the calibre of riders was extremely high.

Many of the records I’ve held have been broken and on Thursday night, both Alastair Seeley and Michael Rutter equalled my 28 podiums at the North West. They will probably raise it even further in today’s races, but I think my five wins in a day will be really tough to match.

Under the current format there are only five races on a Saturday at the North West, but for someone to go out and win them all really would be an extraordinary feat. It could be done, but hopefully not!

The stage really is set today for some terrific racing at the North West but I was saddened on Thursday when I learned John McGuinness had crashed.

It’s a really big blow. John is such a nice guy and a real ambassador for our sport worldwide through his eight North West and 23 Isle of Man TT wins.

He’s 45 now and probably has been thinking about eventual retirement, so for this to happen to him in practice is a massive disappointment and unfortunately it looks like John will miss the TT. We’ll miss him today at the North West 200 and I wish him a speedy recovery.

Thursday’s Superbike practice was cut short due to John’s crash but Glenn Irwin has still managed to put the PBM Ducati on the front row. It’s an unbelievable achievement by Glenn, who has only completed something like 11 laps in total as he concentrates solely on the Superbike class.

But Glenn has been riding at a really high level in the British Superbike Championship and knows the bike inside out. I believe he’ll be on the rostrum today, but I’m not sure what position he’ll be in.

He isn’t scared by the opposition and the only thing that could go against him is his lack of experience on a Superbike around this course and lack of lap time.

Michael Dunlop has done a magnificent job with his brand new Suzuki and then you have the likes of Rutter, Ian Hutchinson, Peter Hickman, Lee Johnston and Dean Harrison.

But in theory, Seeley should win because he’s got the record number of wins here, he’s got massive experience, great bikes and he’s feeling happy and relaxed.

Phillip McCallen is a former multiple North West winner, BBC summariser and owner of McCallen Motorcycles

Belfast Telegraph

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