Seeley shines brightest on a stop-start day at the North West

Glenn Irwin during Saturday's racing at the Vauxhall International North West 200 in Portrush
Picture: Pacemaker
Willis Marshall

CARRICKFERGUS’ Alastair Seeley equalled the late Robert Dunlop’s record number of 15 North West 200 race wins on Saturday.

The Tyco BMW rider notched a double with wins in the Supersport 600 and Superbike races on another unforgettable day for the organisers. There were no less than four red flag incidents over the course of the day and, between these and weather interruptions, only four races took place in nine hours. The feature race of the day, the North West 200 Superbike, was scrubbed at 7pm.

The day got off to the worst possible start when the Spidi Superstock race was abandoned after a serious incident on the second lap between York Corner and Mill Road. Three riders crashed out and a spectator was seriously injured.

Bradford’s Dean Harrison, Austrian Horst Saiger and Crumlin’s Stephen Thompson were involved in the incident. Harrison escaped without injury, but Saiger and Thompson were treated at trackside before being taken to Coleraine Hospital. Thompson was later transferred to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast with serious injuries.

The organisers decided to cancel the Superstock race and, about one hour later, the Bet McClean Supersport 600 race took to the grid. It turned out to be a cracking race, with Seeley taking the win by the narrowest of margins from circuit newcomer and fellow Carrick rider Glenn Irwin, who led for four laps of the six-lap race. Fermanagh’s Lee Johnston took third place in a race that wasn’t for the faint hearted.

“That was some race,” said Seeley afterwards.

‘‘My experience paid off along the coast road section. I had a few moments during the race with a small shower of rain making the bike spin up in places. All credit to Tyco Racing, who have given me another great bike for the race.”

Seeley then made it two wins out of two starts in the Monster Energy Superbike race. It was restarted after only one lap due to an incident. On the restart, it was Yorkshire’s Ian Hutchinson on the PBM Kawasaki who led at the end of the opening lap from Lee Johnston and New Zealand’s Bruce Anstey.

Hutchinson kept his lead for four of the five laps but, on the final lap, that man Seeley made his move and took the lead and the race win from Hutchinson by 0.3s, with Anstey holding onto third place.

“I’ve been riding here now for 11 years and to equal Robert Dunlop’s number of race wins is fantastic. Robert was a legend," Seeley said.

‘‘I sat behind the leaders early on and weighed them up and decided to make my move on the final lap, which paid off. Everything just fell into place."

In the Anchor Complex Supertwins race, there was another one-two for the KMR Kawasaki team, with former World Grand Prix rider Jeremy McWilliams taking the win from Ryan Farquhar by just 0.4s. Such was McWillams’ pace on the final lap that he set the fastest lap of the race at 107.969mph. Ballyclare rider Jamie Hamilton on the Burrows Kawasaki finished in third place.

In the CP Hire Superstock race, Fermanagh’s Lee Johnston took the win with only 0.19s to spare over second place Alastair Seeley and Ian Hutchison. This was a fast and frantic race which saw Hutchinson set a new lap record at 121.686mph.

Michael Dunlop, who had a North West to forget, finished in fourth place in front of brother William, who, like Michael, will want to forget this year’s event.

With time running out and with 40mph winds forecast, race director Mervyn Whyte decided to call a halt to proceedings.


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