Team-mates Irwin and Hillier are delighted to sparkle for all at Kawasaki
Saturday certainly tried the patience of competitors, officials and long-suffering spectators throughout an initial five hours of heavy rain, racing and non-racing incidents.
However, the Coleraine and District Club persisted and managed to run four of the five races scheduled for Saturday despite having to use an extension of the road closing order.
Over the North West 200 meeting, there were seven different winners of the seven races that took place and what a meeting it was for the Quattro Plant Wicked Coatings Kawasaki team.
Glenn Irwin took his first win for the team and his fourth Superbike race victory in a row at the event, while team-mate James Hillier finished a tenth of a second behind in second and then took his maiden North West 200 victory after leading the Superstock race from start to finish to earn the Man of the Meeting award.
In damp conditions, the Anchor Bar Superbike race was reduced from six to four laps and started without a few potential front runners like Dean Harrison, Lee Johnston, Peter Hickman, James Coward and Ian Hutchinson, who had decided to withdraw from the race given the conditions — clearly with an eye on the upcoming TT.
Alastair Seeley set the early pace on the twitchy PBM Be Wiser Ducati V4RR but, by Metropole, Hillier — riding his Superstock Kawasaki — was the race leader with Irwin, Seeley, Derek Sheils and Conor Cummins close behind.
Cummins was into third on lap two with Sheils also passing Seeley.
A second covered Hillier, Irwin and Cummins during a fantastic last lap with Irwin snatching the lead at Magherabuoy chicane and Hillier fighting back at Metropole.
Like many a race at the North West, Juniper chicane saw the decisive action as Irwin just held off on the brakes to take the lead.
Hillier tried an inside move up Quarry Hill but Irwin held on to take his fourth consecutive Superbike win at the North West, a tenth of a second ahead of his team-mate who was taking his fifth second place at the event with Cummins a further three tenths back in third.
It was a great ride for the Ramsey man, who had got the Milenco by Padgetts Honda sideways off the start and was almost last through Primrose.
Carrick ace Irwin said: “It was flat out all the way and it was nice to have two good friends, who I have so much respect for, battling with me. James was so much quicker than me through Church and Dhu Varren so I knew I had to try something different on the last lap.
“I was quicker than him in some parts, especially Black Hill, and got good drive through there on the final lap to set up the pass at Juniper. It was a fun race even though conditions were tricky and a one-two for the team — after the start to the season we had — was just what they needed.
“My chin was on the floor earlier in the day, but then I thought I didn’t want to go back to fixing fridges again!”
A few hours later and Hillier had taken his first North West victory with an astonishing win in the six-lap CP Hire Superstock race. He held a remarkable nine-second lead at the end of lap one, and increased it to almost 20 seconds by half distance.
Rain began to fall in the closing laps and he eased off — almost too much, winning by just three seconds from newcomer Richard Cooper, who had a tenth to spare over Davey Todd.
Hillier said: “I tried a bit in the early laps and couldn’t believe the 18-second lead on my pit board.
“When the rain came, I backed off. Fair play to the boys for closing me down on the last lap. It was really tricky.”
With first, second, third and fourth-place finishes in his four races, 34-year-old Hillier was crowned Man of the Meeting.