Belfast Telegraph

Wee Wizard will find it tough to equal my record

By Philip McCallen

The build up to this year’s North West 200 and all the hype surrounding Alastair Seeley’s potential 16th win is now done and dusted, and didn’t he do it in some style during Thursday night’s Supersport race.

If we look back at all of Alastair’s 16 wins here on the north coast, he certainly wasn’t gifted any of them, and despite racing in a different era, I know personally how tough it is to win around here and the pressure it carries as a local rider in front of home fans.

Sadly Thursday night ended with Ryan Farquhar very much in all our thoughts, after his crash in the Supertwin race. He was at the front challenging for the win, exactly where we have become so used to seeing him compete.

Thankfully as we head into today’s race programme, Ryan seems to have made some progress and we wish him a speedy recovery.

It’s never good to see anyone getting hurt in our sport, whether they are last or first. 

The riders and teams don’t need it and the sport certainly doesn’t want it, but full credit to our superb medical team, who dealt with the incident as we would have expected — offering impeccable professionalism and support.

Looking ahead to today I think the question I’ll be asked more than most is can Alastair Seeley equal my five wins in a day from 1992. It’s a long time ago, but one thing I do remember and a similar answer I’m sure Alastair will give, is this. 

You can only take one race at a time…

The Wee Wizard is riding as well as he ever has here at the North West 200.

He’s a master of the circuit and does his homework, so he deserves all the success that comes his way.

In saying that we must not get carried away.

He has fire in his belly like I did back in 1992 and it’s true that the more races you win, the more you want to win.

One thing that stands in his favour is that he will come up against pretty much the same riders in the Supersport, Superstock and Superbike races.

He’s a smart racer as we saw on Thursday night and he will be watching and learning with every lap.

That will allow him to see the strengths and weaknesses of his rivals. But it also allows them to look at him, although he seems to be able to win from the front or come from sixth place these days. He has certainly mastered this place.

Can he win five?

If I’m honest I think it will be very, very difficult. Ian Hutchinson is riding at the top of his game at the minute.

He lost a session during Thursday’s qualifying on his Supersport bike and still took it to Seeley.

I expect Hutchy (above) to be even stronger today and on the little Yamaha and his Tyco BMW bikes, he is capable of three or four wins if it comes together.

Also don’t write off Michael Dunlop. He also looked strong during qualifying and he will be up for the fight on equally well set-up BMWs. 

One man who has impressed me is Peter Hickman. It’s big Peter’s first year back here since he competed as a newcomer and even though it’s taken him a couple of nights to get things sorted on the new Kawasaki, he looks like the complete package as a road racer and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

I’m glad to see the KMR Kawasaki team is going to race today despite Ryan’s accident.

His wife Karen is a strong character and fully supportive of Ryan which includes his business.

That means they going racing and with a loyal bunch behind her, including the experience carried by former Grand Prix rider Jeremy McWilliams, they will do a top job for Ryan.

  • With another great day of weather forecast it really is looking like a memorable North West 200, and I’m sure along with all of the Belfast Telegraph readers, you will join me in wishing all competitors a safe and enjoyable day’s racing.

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