Belfast Telegraph

Phillip McCallen: New lap record on the cards now Irwin has his mojo back

 

Fan power: NW200 stars Glenn Irwin and Maria Costello at the Meet the Riders event in Coleraine yesterday
Fan power: NW200 stars Glenn Irwin and Maria Costello at the Meet the Riders event in Coleraine yesterday

By Phillip McCallen

If Thursday is anything to go by, I don’t think one rider will dominate the headlines at the North West 200 today.

I believe we’ll see different winners again, although one man with the most potential to get more than one victory on the board is Glenn Irwin. Whether that will happen or not, I don’t know, but Glenn has got his confidence back and he showed it by taking pole for the Superbike class.

I wouldn’t put my life savings on a winner though because those big Superbike races look wide open.

Irwin will be right in there as he chases a fourth win in a row, and Dean Harrison and Alastair Seeley are also among the favourites.

Alastair’s Ducati V4 definitely has the most potential and the bike is geared for around 205-210mph, so it just comes down to whether or not they can get the stability right. Alastair can ride the corners and if he’s got that straight line speed as well, then we know he won’t be far away.

Peter Hickman had a few issues with his Smiths BMW Superbike but we saw how fast he was in the Superstock race on Thursday and you can’t rule him out if his team manages to iron out those problems.

Michael Dunlop is another one of the main contenders starting from fourth place on row two. He holds the lap record from 2016 and he’ll be trying hard, like Michael always does.

You’ve probably got about half a dozen main riders there and you can count in Lee Johnston as well, because he’s a strong competitor on the big bikes too.

It’s the same in the Supersport class. I can’t pick a winner but we know that Lee Johnston, Seeley, Dean Harrison and James Hillier will be somewhere at the front. Paul Jordan was in that group until he had some bike trouble on Thursday and Peter Hickman could be in the mix as well on his Triumph.

Seeley will want to make amends after his crash at Juniper chicane but it won’t be easy because he’s facing the most competitive field he’s been up against for quite a while.

Hickman controlled the first Superstock race but I’m not sure he will be able to do that again today because Irwin will have a different approach this time.

He won’t want Hickman to get away in front and I think he will make it more difficult for him, and Harrison will be up for it again after he slid off at University on Thursday when he was on for a podium.

It was just fantastic to see Italy’s Stefano Bonetti winning his first race in the Supertwin event and I’m sure we’ll have another ding-dong battle on our hands.

Jeremy McWilliams will be annoyed with himself after he made a mistake at Mather’s chicane and Derek McGee will want to pull his socks up too because errors have cost him dearly so far, but both those guys are potential winners.

There’s Jamie Coward as well, who has been right at the front in the Supertwin class all week, but who will get the final verdict is anyone’s guess.

I said earlier in the week that we could see the outright lap record go and if it’s dry today, then I can definitely see that happening because Irwin, Harrison and Seeley were already under it in Thursday’s qualifying session.

It’s been a superb North West 200 so far and it looks like being even better today, so I think everyone is in for a treat.

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