Belfast Telegraph

Phillip McCallen: Drama and dry roads make for one of the best NW200s in years

 

PACEMAKER BELFAST 16/05/2019
Peter Hickman (60) celebrates his victory during this evenings Bayview Hotel Superstock race at the North West 200. 2nd Glenn Irwin 3rd Michael Dunlop
Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 16/05/2019 Peter Hickman (60) celebrates his victory during this evenings Bayview Hotel Superstock race at the North West 200. 2nd Glenn Irwin 3rd Michael Dunlop Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 16-5-19 MCL Insuretech Supertwin Race - Fona Cab International NW200 Derek McGee (KMR Kawasaki) with Jeremy McWilliams (KMR Kawasaki) in close proximity at Ballysally Roundabout during today's MCL Insuretech Supertwin Race at the Fona Cab International NW200 in Co Antrim. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
16/05/19 Pacemaker Press Intl/Rod Neill: Peter Hickman (Smiths BMW) on his way to victory in the Superstock race at NW2019. Photo: Rod Neill
16/05/19 Pacemaker Press Intl/Rod Neill: Peter Hickman (Smiths BMW) on his way to victory in the Superstock race at NW2019. Photo: Rod Neill
16/05/19 Pacemaker Press Intl/Rod Neill: Michael Dunlop (MD Racing) battled his way to third place in the Superstock race. Photo: Rod Neill
16/05/19 Pacemaker Press Intl/Rod Neill: Glenn Irwin (JG Speedfit Kawasaki) took second place in Superstock race at NW200. Photo: Rod Neill
Pacemaker Belfast 16-5-19 Bayview Hotel Superstock Race - Fona Cab International NW200 Peter Hickman (Smiths Racing BMW) leading Dean Harrison (Silicone Engineering Racing Kawasaki) and Glenn Irwin (Quattro Plant Wicked Coatings Kawasaki) at Ballysally Roundabout during today's Bayview Hotel Superstock Race at the Fona Cab International NW200 in Co Antrim. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 16-5-19 Bayview Hotel Superstock Race - Fona Cab International NW200 Ian Hutchinson (Honda Racing) heads Michael Rutter (Bathams Racing BMW) at Ballysally Roundabout during today's Bayview Hotel Superstock Race at the Fona Cab International NW200 in Co Antrim. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 16-5-19 Bayview Hotel Superstock Race - Fona Cab International NW200 James Hillier (Quattro Plant Wicked Coatings Kawasaki) heads Lee Johnston (Ashcourt Racing BMW) and Ian Hutchinson (Honda Racing) at Ballysally Roundabout during today's Bayview Hotel Superstock Race at the Fona Cab International NW200 in Co Antrim. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 16-5-19 Bayview Hotel Superstock Race - Fona Cab International NW200 Peter Hickman (Smiths Racing BMW) leads at Ballysally Roundabout during today's Bayview Hotel Superstock Race at the Fona Cab International NW200 in Co Antrim. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 16-5-19 Bayview Hotel Superstock Race - Fona Cab International NW200 Glenn Irwin (Quattro Plant Wicked Coatings Kawasaki) follows Dean Harrison (Silicone Engineering Racing Kawasaki) at Ballysally Roundabout during today's Bayview Hotel Superstock Race at the Fona Cab International NW200 in Co Antrim. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 16-5-19 Bayview Hotel Superstock Race - Fona Cab International NW200 James Hillier (Quattro Plant Wicked Coatings Kawasaki) heads Michael Dunlop (MD Racing BMW) and Ian Hutchinson (Honda Racing) at Ballysally Roundabout during today's Bayview Hotel Superstock Race at the Fona Cab International NW200 in Co Antrim. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 16-5-19 Bayview Hotel Superstock Race - Fona Cab International NW200 Lee Johnston (Ashcourt Racing BMW) at Ballysally Roundabout during today's Bayview Hotel Superstock Race at the Fona Cab International NW200 in Co Antrim. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 16-5-19 Bayview Hotel Superstock Race - Fona Cab International NW200 Peter Hickman (Smiths Racing BMW) at Ballysally Roundabout during today's Bayview Hotel Superstock Race at the Fona Cab International NW200 in Co Antrim. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 16-5-19 Bayview Hotel Superstock Race - Fona Cab International NW200 Michael Dunlop (MD Racing BMW) at Ballysally Roundabout during today's Bayview Hotel Superstock Race at the Fona Cab International NW200 in Co Antrim. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 16/05/2019 Peter Hickman (60) celebrates his victory during this evenings Bayview Hotel Superstock race at the North West 200. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 16/05/2019 Michael Dunlop with plenty on his mind after his 3rd place finish in this evenings Bayview Hotel Superstock race at the North West 200. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 16/05/2019 Peter Hickman (60) celebrates his victory during this evenings Bayview Hotel Superstock race at the North West 200. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 16/05/2019 Michael Dunlop with plenty on his mind after his 3rd place finish in this evenings Bayview Hotel Superstock race at the North West 200. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 16/05/2019 Michael Dunlop with plenty on his mind after his 3rd place finish in this evenings Bayview Hotel Superstock race at the North West 200. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 16/05/2019 Peter Hickman (60) celebrates his victory during this evenings Bayview Hotel Superstock race at the North West 200. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 16/05/2019 Peter Hickman (60) celebrates his victory during this evenings Bayview Hotel Superstock race at the North West 200. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 16/05/2019 Peter Hickman (60) celebrates his victory during this evenings Bayview Hotel Superstock race at the North West 200. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
16/05/19 Pacemaker Press Intl/Rod Neill: Jeremy McWilliams was an early leader in the Supertwins race at NW200. Photo: Rod Neill
16/05/19 Pacemaker Press Intl/Rod Neill: Close racing between KMR teammates Derek McGee and Michael Rutter. Photo: Rod Neill
16/05/19 Pacemaker Press Intl/Rod Neill: Stefano Bonetti from Italy took the honours from Jamie Coward in the Supertwin race. Photo: Rod Neill
16/05/19 Pacemaker Press Intl/Rod Neill: Stefano Bonetti from Italy took the honours from Jamie Coward in the Supertwin race. Photo: Rod Neill
PACEMAKER BELFAST 16/05/2019 The first ever Italian winner Stefano Bonetti celebrates winning after this evenings MCL Insuretech Supertwin race at the North West 200. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 16/05/2019 The first ever Italian winner Stefano Bonetti celebrates winning after this evenings MCL Insuretech Supertwin race at the North West 200. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 16-5-19 MCL Insuretech Supertwin Race - Fona Cab International NW200 Jamie Coward (KTS Racing Kawasaki) leads Derek McGee (KMR Kawasaki) at Ballysally Roundabout during today's MCL Insuretech Supertwin Race at the Fona Cab International NW200 in Co Antrim. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 16-5-19 MCL Insuretech Supertwin Race - Fona Cab International NW200 Jamie Coward (KTS Racing Kawasaki) at Ballysally Roundabout during today's MCL Insuretech Supertwin Race at the Fona Cab International NW200 in Co Antrim. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 16-5-19 MCL Insuretech Supertwin Race - Fona Cab International NW200 Stefano Bonetti (VAS Engine Racing Paton) leads the pack followed by Jeremy McWilliams (KMR Kawasaki) and Derek McGee (KMR Kawasaki) at Ballysally Roundabout during today's MCL Insuretech Supertwin Race at the Fona Cab International NW200 in Co Antrim. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 16/05/2019 The first ever Italian winner Stefano Bonetti celebrates winning after this evenings MCL Insuretech Supertwin race at the North West 200. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 16/05/2019 The first ever Italian winner Stefano Bonetti celebrates winning after this evenings MCL Insuretech Supertwin race at the North West 200. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 16/05/2019 The first ever Italian winner Stefano Bonetti celebrates winning after this evenings MCL Insuretech Supertwin race at the North West 200. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press

By Phillip McCallen

This is surely one of the best starts ever to the North West 200. The first races lived up to expectations after a fantastic final qualifying practice and it’s been such a success so far because dry roads make all the difference.

We witnessed an outstanding Supersport race that went down to the final lap, with Lee Johnston taking a deserved victory.

Lee did all the hard work in the race and I think Alastair Seeley felt he was holding the card for the last lap at the Juniper chicane. He tried to get away a few times but couldn’t and, by the time of the final lap, Lee had his braking down to perfection.

Seeley just left it a few metres too late and Lee nipped through for the victory.

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I actually thought the Superstock race would have been much closer, but once Peter Hickman got to the front he had things under control.

Glenn Irwin was growing in confidence with each lap but he was too late to do anything about Hickman, who took the race by the horns and won fair and square.

And wasn’t it fantastic to see Michael Dunlop back on the rostrum? There will be more to come from Michael and he’s another one who will be up there on Saturday.

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In the Supertwin race, Jeremy McWilliams had some bad luck when he crashed out at Magherabuoy chicane. He’s an excellent rider and I know he would’ve been up there fighting for the lead in the race, but he was maybe pushing a little too hard for the win and the North West can do that to you.

But fair play to Stefano Bonetti because no-one deserved that win more and it was a great moment for him.

It capped off a brilliant day at the North West 200 after a superb final qualifying session.

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After his struggles on Tuesday, we saw a remarkable turnaround by Glenn Irwin. It was absolutely brilliant to see him back at his best after he was so downhearted with everything on Tuesday. He’s back riding the way we know he can and I think he was maybe just overthinking things a little bit and worrying about the things that can go wrong, so his mind wasn’t quite in the right place.

Glenn had a nice run out on the Supertwin in the morning and then, once he got that going, he was on a roll and his confidence just grew.

He was second fastest in the Superstock class and then he carried that momentum with him into the Superbike session and produced that brilliant lap for pole, which was under Michael Dunlop’s 2016 lap record.

A convoy of hundreds of bikers ride off Stena Superfast VIII at the Belfast Port to make their way to the International North West 200
A convoy of hundreds of bikers ride off Stena Superfast VIII at the Belfast Port to make their way to the International North West 200
A convoy of hundreds of bikers ride off Stena Superfast VIII at the Belfast Port to make their way to the International North West 200
A convoy of hundreds of bikers ride off Stena Superfast VIII at the Belfast Port to make their way to the International North West 200
A convoy of hundreds of bikers ride off Stena Superfast VIII at the Belfast Port to make their way to the International North West 200
A convoy of hundreds of bikers ride off Stena Superfast VIII at the Belfast Port to make their way to the International North West 200
A convoy of hundreds of bikers ride off Stena Superfast VIII at the Belfast Port to make their way to the International North West 200
A convoy of hundreds of bikers ride off Stena Superfast VIII at the Belfast Port to make their way to the International North West 200
A convoy of hundreds of bikers ride off Stena Superfast VIII at the Belfast Port to make their way to the International North West 200

You don’t lose your talent and it was just a matter of Glenn pulling everything together.

Without a doubt, Saturday’s Superbike races are going to be something special because Dean Harrison was riding fantastic again and Alastair Seeley was up there as well on the Ducati. There was less than three-tenths-of-a-second covering those first three, so I think we’re going to be in for a treat on Saturday if the weather stays dry.

To become king of the North West you have to win the Superbike race, and if you can win two, then that’s even better. There will be no stopping Glenn now because his confidence will just be soaring after today and he will only get stronger.

You’ve got others behind that top group who still need a few more tweaks to be in with a chance, but Michael Dunlop isn’t far away on his Tyco BMW and Conor Cummins and Lee Johnston were in the mix as well.

RACE SCHEDULE

Saturday (Roads closed 9.15am-7pm)

Race 1 – Supersport Race

Race 2 – Superbike Race

Race 3 – Supertwin Race

Race 4 – Superstock Race

Race 5 – NW200 Superbike Race

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