Unsponsored Bonetti upsets the odds to become first Italian champion
The Italian national anthem rang out around the Triangle race circuit for the first time in the 90-year history of the North West 200 as the unfancied Stefano Bonetti came out the winner of the MCL Insuretech four-lap Supertwin race.
It was a fairy story for the 42-year-old from Bergamo who stood on top of the podium some 14 years after his first appearance at the Triangle circuit.
And he did it too with no sponsorship, making his achievement all the more remarkable
Speaking afterwards through an interpreter, Bonetti said: “I started the race slow and then once in front try, try, try for the win.
“It is a dream for every rider to win here and on an Italian machine as well is something special.”
A six-man battle saw Jeremy McWilliams lead by Magherabuoy Chicane on lap one, with Bonetti, Derek McGee, Michael Rutter, Jamie Coward and Christian Elkin hot on his heels.
On lap two, Bonetti, on the Paton, pulled alongside the KMR Kawasakis of McWilliams and McGee on the fast run out to University and take the lead.
Trying to out-brake Bonetti at Mathers Chicane, McWilliams went in too hot, went across the grass and fell off, sliding back across the track in front of McGee and Rutter, with Elkin taking avoiding action at the back of the group.
The 55-year-old ex-Grand Prix winner was unhurt in what was his second tumble of the day.
This allowed Bonetti to escape with all eyes on Jamie Coward the pole setter, who was starting to make up ground from fifth position, going into third on the third lap as Bonetti stretched the lead over McGee.
The action was at Mathers again with Coward taking the inside line on McGee, the Mullingar man taking to the slip road and incurring a penalty, before he headed to the pits to retire — clipping the kerb on his way into the pits.
Coward closed in on the Italian and on the final lap he took the lead at University, only to see the Paton come past again before Mathers and take a three-bike length lead out of Metropole and onto the Coast Road for the last time.
It was too much for Coward to pull back and history was made as with Bonetti taking the win by 0.579sec.
Michael Rutter was a further six seconds back in third on the first KMR machine to finish, with three more Patons in the hands of James Chawke, Horst Saiger and another Italian Francesco Curinga, a newcomer, finishing fourth, fifth and sixth.
Carl Phillips, another newcomer, was the best of the local runners in eighth position on a Team ILR/Mark Coverdale Paton.