North West preview
Seeley, Irwin and Dunlop set to battle bar-to-bar at 200mph
The 2018 North West 200 looks set for a rematch of last year’s epic battle between Glenn Irwin and Alastair Seeley in the main superbike race.
BSB star Irwin’s challenge to Seeley’s 21 race-winning dominance at the event has captured the imagination of the fans as the pair have whipped the asses of the pure roads specialists around the 8.9-mile Northern Irish seaside circuit.
Fresh from their early season BSB and British Superstock outings, the duo will arrive at Portrush razor sharp. Irwin finished on the podium at Brands Hatch on the Be Wiser/PBM Ducati and Seeley will ride a Tyco BMW. His relationship with the TAS team has produced no less than 13 NW200 victories, but Seeley’s new Tyco team-mate and NW200 outright lap record holder, Michael Dunlop, will be determined to tear up the Irwin/Seeley script. Seeley has predicted ‘fireworks’ between the pair and Irwin’s claim that Dunlop now refuses to speak to him because he has never beaten the BSB rider in a road race will only add fuel to the flames!
It is hard to look beyond these three riders for the winner of the two superbike races but three other BMW riders are certain to be in the mix. Fresh from his Tandragee 100 victory, Dan Kneen will be keen to impress his new Tyco bosses at their home race, while Martin Jessopp (Riders Motorcycles BMW), a double NW winner in 2017, and Peter Hickman (Smiths BMW) will also pose a major threat. Honda Racing’s new recruit, Lee Johnston has won three NW200s while close friend and rival, Dean Harrison (Silicone Kawasaki), is still trying to break his podium duck. Johnston’s team-mate, Ian Hutchinson, who finished third in last year’s feature Superbike race, has been passed fit to compete in his first road race since breaking his leg in last year’s Senior TT. Former North West winner, William Dunlop and previous podium finishers, James Hillier, and Gary Johnson could prove to be dark horses as might Conor Cummins on the Padgett’s Honda. The Ramsey man will want to maintain the Yorkshire team’s impressive North West record in the absence of Bruce Anstey. And, of course, you can’t rule out NW200 legend, Michael Rutter, for a win. The 46-year-old shares the record of nine big bike race wins on the Triangle circuit with Joey Dunlop. Rutter chalked up his 14th North West victory in last year’s Supertwin event on Ryan Farquhar’s KMR Kawasaki.
Seeley says there could be team ‘fireworks’ Rutter poised to take historic race win tally
Dunlop will be a serious threat on the BMW
Seeley has to be one of the top three favourites for NW200 podium finish