North West 200

Ir­ish road racing’s flat- out thriller

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Sport -

Link­ing the three North­ern Ir­ish towns of Portrush, Port­stew­art and Col­eraine, the 8.9-mile sea­side venue’s mix of high speed straights, tight (and con­tro­ver­sial) chi­canes and a spec­tac­u­lar coast road sec­tion has al­ways at­tracted rid­ers from roads and short cir­cuit racing – and it’s the only road race for­mer British Su­pers­port and Su­per­stock cham­pion, Alastair See­ley, com­petes in. Over the past decade he has dom­i­nated, win­ning his 17th race in 2016 to be­come the NW200’S most suc­cess­ful ex­po­nent. Who bet­ter to take us on a lap of the NW200 on his Tyco BMW su­per­bike? Over to you, Alastair…

Start line to York Hair­pin

When the lights go out the pack plunges into the first cor­ner at Mill­bank in third gear. The North West has a mass start and ev­ery­one is jock­ey­ing for po­si­tion through this right han­der and on into the left at Prim­rose.

You can make a few passes here but you don’t need to go mad. There is a big bump on the en­try to Prim­rose that can throw you about. The su­per­bikes pull a huge wheelie on the run down to York, drop­ping from fourth to first gear for the tight hair­pin.

This is a good place to make a pass on the in­side but on the first lap you have to be care­ful as you have a full tank of fuel and you don’t want to run on or worse, into the side of some­one else.

If you’re mid pack you can end up sort of ped­dling your way in a traf­fic jam around here which isn’t very grace­ful!

York to Ballysally (the Magic Round­about)

On the first lap tyre tem­per­a­ture is im­por­tant and you have to be care­ful not to high­side on the exit of York. Then it’s short shift­ing up the hill and round the right kink to­wards Mill Road round­about, which we go round the wrong way! You are pow­er­ing up the hill be­tween the houses here in third and it is bumpy go­ing into the tight right-left flick. There is room to make a pass go­ing in but it is usu­ally a fol­low-the-leader job. In the last few years this place has caught a few peo­ple out be­cause there is a lit­tle dip in the road and you can come in too hot with nowhere to go. It is one of the places I warn new­com­ers to be wary of.

The run out to Sta­tion is when you re­ally get go­ing, pow­er­ing the big bikes up into fifth and rolling slightly for the fastest cor­ner on the track. There are a cou­ple of un­du­la­tions that give you big wheel­ies on the ap­proach, so you have to keep your wits about you. We go through Sta­tion at 150-160mph.

From here to Univer­sity you leave the shops and houses be­hind and there are just fields and hedges on one of the fastest part of the course. We hit over 200mph on this stretch as the pack slip­stream one an­other a few inches apart.

The track is bumpy at these speeds and it isn’t re­ally straight. You have to pick the side of the road to go on so you don’t get closed out and it re­ally does feel like you are truck­ing along on the big bike. Ev­ery­one is choos­ing lines and then you hit Black Bridge where the bike wheel­ies flat out in sixth!

There is a slight right just be­fore Univer­sity that I try to stick to the in­side of, and then it is on the brakes hard for the first-gear left-han­der. This is an­other good place to make a pass and you drive hard up over the hill to the Magic Round­about. As you hook third the bike wheel­ies out over the hill and some rid­ers use the hard shoul­der to sweep into the round­about.

This is one of the best places to spec­tate be­cause we come re­ally close to the fence on the en­trance and you could al­most reach out and touch our hel­mets.

It is sec­ond gear for the round­about. The bike is on its side with the tyres work­ing hard, spin­ning up and slid­ing like mad on the exit.

Ballysally (the Magic Round­about) to Metropole

You drive hard from sec­ond to fifth from the round­about to Mather’s. This is a re­ally bumpy sec­tion through a fast left kink. I had a big off here on a 600 a few years ago when Keith Amor broke down in front of me and I clipped the back of him at about 130mph.

Mather’s used to be THE cor­ner on this track be­fore it was chi­caned. It is what it is now and the im­por­tant thing is to be pre­cise. The en­try is tight and you have to judge your brak­ing per­fectly, which isn’t easy go­ing down from the high speeds while you are try­ing to make a pass on some­one!

There is a bump on the en­try just to make it a wee bit harder and the back wheel can be left hang­ing in the air.

Af­ter Mather’s it is slip­stream city as you tuck into a high-speed train and ham­mer along in sixth to Magher­abouy. The whole idea is to try to keep race po­si­tion and not lose the tow. You can be lead­ing com­ing out of the chi­cane, drop down back to fifth or sixth and then end up lead­ing again as we pass and repass on this part of the track.

Magher­abouy chi­cane is one of the hard­est pass­ing places be­cause you can’t see the en­trance as you come over the hill. Again it is very tight and you have to ap­proach with pre­ci­sion, es­pe­cially to­wards the end of the race.

It is a quick flick left and right, watch­ing you don’t clip the kerb on the exit in sec­ond gear. The run down the hill into Portrush is su­per­fast. There is usu­ally a gag­gle of big bikes to­gether as we plunge past the fill­ing sta­tion and be­tween the houses into Metropole. This is where all the pass­ing be­gins on the last lap be­cause you are get­ting close to home. If you run down the in­side it makes the cor­ner very tight and the road is cov­ered in white lines so you have to be care­ful with the front brake and your lean an­gle. You go from sixth gear down to first and the bike is snaking all over the road, so it is a spec­tac­u­lar place to watch as we bat­tle it out for race po­si­tion.

Metropole to the fin­ish

Go­ing round Metropole’s long left­hander you are al­ways leaned over so you short shift into sec­ond. This is the start of the coast road sec­tion and there are huge crowds watch­ing on the em­bank­ment.

You don’t want to hit the rev lim­iter as you ap­proach Church cor­ner, one of the most im­por­tant places on the track. On the last lap you have to be right at the front of the pack go­ing through the right-han­der to give your­self a good run un­der the rail­way bridge and up the hill. It has been a con­tro­ver­sial place in the past with some hard passes be­ing made here in races I’ve won.

You are driv­ing hard up to Black Hill from Church, stay­ing clear of the houses and big kerbs and dodg­ing the man­holes. It is an area you have to treat with re­spect and you have to roll the throt­tle a lit­tle on the big bike.

Black Hill is where all the pho­tog­ra­phers go for the big wheelie shots but I try to keep the wheel down and power over the top as you go from third down to sec­ond and then back up to fifth for the run along to Ju­niper.

Ju­niper is all about the brakes and this is where the race is won or lost on the last lap. I use prac­tice and qual­i­fy­ing to work out my brak­ing markers but I am not go­ing to tell you how I choose my line be­cause that is the vi­tal part and I don’t want all my ri­vals to know!

It is re­ally easy to make a mis­take at this late stage and run straight on or over the grass. Some­one as good as Michael Rut­ter has crashed here do­ing that but if you can get it all inch per­fect, with your nose in front, then you should be home and dry and on your way to the che­quered flag!

‘Wee Wizard’ See­ley in last year’s Su­pers­port race

See­ley leads Wil­liam Dun­lop dur­ing NW qual­i­fy­ing

See­ley leads Hutchy and An­stey in the Su­per­bike race

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