North West 200: Alastair Seeley left to reflect on what could have been
During an outstanding Vauxhall North West 200, local competitors scored seven wins from eight races with Alastair Seeley and Lee Johnston experiencing the ups and downs of the sport in spectacular style.
Seeley had a double on Thursday while the Fermanagh man snatched the Supertwin race victory at Juniper Chicane on the last lap.
On Saturday, however, in the opening race of the day, the Milwaukee Supersport, Seeley and Johnston were battling for the win when, on the final lap, disaster struck at Metropole.
The Mar-Train Yamaha and East Coast Honda had a coming together as both went for the same piece of road, Johnston cartwheeling into the protective barriers and Seeley stopping just short, both lucky to escape injury
Beneficiary of the pair’s misfortune was Kiwi Bruce Anstey, who with a broad grin said: “I couldn’t believe my luck. I had actually been leading at Mathers Chicane, but went in too fast and overshot. It put me back to third and I thought my chance had gone.”
This win kept Anstey’s record of having finished on the podium of a race every year since a winning debut in 2002 intact.
Johnston picked himself up to take a commanding win of the Anchor Complex Supertwin race, taking the lead on lap three of four to win by over two seconds as Ryan Farquhar, James Cowton, Michael Dunlop and Jeremy McWilliams engaged in a sensational slipstreaming duel for second that eventually went to Dunlop ahead of Cowton and McWilliams.
After what was a Supertwin double, Johnston said: “I needed that after the earlier mishap.”
Dunlop, meanwhile, commented: “It was a good old race, but I’m far, far too heavy for these wee bikes.”
After Thursday’s double, Seeley commented: “It was nice to get my 11th and 12th North West wins.”
How things changed after his first race crash — he sat out the following Superbike race having sustained a bang on his knee in the incident, but like Johnston it is hard to keep a good man down and the diminutive Seeley was back on his Mar-Train Kawasaki for the CP Hire Superstock race.
He finished fifth, the race red-flagged on the fourth lap of a scheduled six after Simon Andrews had a huge accident on the approach to Metropole that saw the Evesham rider air-lifted to the Royal Victoria Hospital.
Seeley was back out in the feature NW200 Superbike race and finished a creditable third and commented: “I got to the front at one stage, but Josh (Brookes) pushed me wide at Station and I lost drive dropping behind Michael Dunlop and Brookes.
“A second and a third is not too bad after what happened. Who knows what could have been but for that mishap.”
Other sterling performances came from Brookes, who achieved two podiums, the outright lap record and Overseas Man of the Meeting Award on only his second visit to the Triangle.
Peter Hickman was awarded best Newcomer for four top-20 finishes, while Horst Saiger set a new Superstock lap record. Veteran Michael Rutter also impressed with six top-six finishes.
Man of the Meeting went to Michael Dunlop with two wins, two seconds, a third and a fifth to claim the Robert Dunlop Memorial Trophy.
Their father would have been proud of both Michael and William’s performances.