Seeley is the man others have to catch at North West 200
ALASTAIR SEELEY is chasing three wins at this year’s Vauxhall International North West 200 to equal Robert Dunlop’s all-time record victory tally, and he made a great start in Tuesday’s opening practice session by topping the leaderboard in the Supersport, Superstock and Superbike sessions.
“A good start to the week for us, and all the bikes are working well,” the 12-time North West winner said afterwards.
“The conditions were good the whole way around for the last session, and I was just chipping away. I managed to come in, make some changes and get a few more laps done at the end. It was hard to get a clear lap with all the traffic, but I was able to get a clear road and pull some seconds out of times.”
Seeley, who is coming to the seaside event on top form having won at the British Superstock Championship round at Oulton Park a fortnight ago, steered his S1000RR Tyco BMW to the fastest times in the stocker and superbike classes. In what was his first ride on a 600cc Suzuki this season, the former British Supersport champion also topped the leaderboard in the 600cc class.
“I hadn’t ridden the little bike until today, but I have lots of great memories of the 600cc Suzuki and it worked well,” he added.
The Carrickfergus man used his vast experience to overcome the difficult conditions, with strong winds and heavy rain hampering the 600cc and Superbike sessions in particular.
“I pulled in early during the Superbike session because the conditions were pretty sketchy and I didn’t want to take any chances,” he explained.
The good news is this should be the last rain of the week to fall on the event, with fine weather forecast from now until the weekend.
Gary Johnson was second fastest on the GBMotoZX10R Kawasaki in the superbike class and Lee Johnston was third on the ECR/Burdens BMW.
“ I kept getting held up in traffic, especially going into the chicanes,” Johnson said after his first non-test outing on the Kawasaki.
“But everything was going well and I am happy.”
Lee Johnston, who has swapped from Honda to BMW power for 2015, was equally pleased with his performance.
“It wasn’t really a day for eating ice cream,” the Fermanagh man joked after the session.
“I am happy, considering they are all new bikes this year. We are third and I want to be first, but I am really looking forward to Thursday now."
Martrain’s Dean Harrison was the fastest of the new R1 Yamahas, with Michael Dunlop finishing eighth in the order on the Milwaukee Yamaha. Ian Hutchinson was fifth fastest on the PBM Kawasaki and John McGuiness was the fastest Honda in sixth spot.
The Dunlop brothers, Michael (MD Racing Yamaha) and William (CD Racing Yamaha), were second and third behind Seeley in the Supersport rankings, and Michael was again second to Seeley in the Superstock class on the MD Racing R1. Dean Harrison was third fastest on another R1 and Austrian Horst Saiger, the Superstock lap record holder for the 8.9-mile Triangle course, was fourth fastest. In the Supertwins class, James Hillier topped the times on the Quattro Plant ER6 Kawasaki.
“I am really pleased because I haven’t even tested the little bike since last year’s TT,” Hillier said afterwards.
Ryan Farquhar, who also practised in the Superbike and Superstock classes on his ZX10R Kawasakis, finished second on his SGS/KMR ER6. Jamie Hamilton was third fastest on the Cookstown BE Racing ER6 and Michael Dunlop was fourth on the McAdoo version. Jeremy McWilliams failed to qualify on a second SGS/KMR bike.
North West newcomer Glenn Irwin lived up to his own predictions of being a possible race winner by finishing fifth in the Supersport class listings on the Gear Link ZXR6RR Kawasaki. He was fired up by his first North West laps.
“It’s so fast - even more than I expected - and the chicanes just come up on you,” the British Supersport championship frontrunner said.
“I wouldn’t read into any of the day’s lap times though - I haven’t rode the 600 in the dry yet. Hopefully, Thursday will be dry because I need the time on the bike in those conditions, but it’s been a good day nonetheless. I’m learning the track and I’m enjoying it.”
But the day belonged to Seeley and all of his rivals will be looking forward to Thursday’s session to see if they can close the gap on the Wee Wizard.