THE MEN WHO CAN
This week’s North West 200 is the first international road race of the 2017 season. All the big names will be on the grid for the first time after months of testing. MCN’S road racing expert Stephen Davison profiles the top riders...
Although the 28-year-old set a new outright lap record in 2016, he has only appeared in a few test sessions and BSB outings since his switch from BMW power to the new Bennett’s Suzuki during the winter. His huge army of local fans will be hoping he has the power to see off the visitors once again.
The man no pundit ever rules out, the 48-year-old will be seeking an 11th victory on a brace of Padgett’s Hondas, including a 2017-spec stocker and last year’s 209mph Fireblade. 2016 was the first time since his 2002 race winning debut that the Kiwi hasn’t stood on a NW200 podium and he is determined to make amends this time out.
Very much the man in form, Hutchinson was a Superstock race winner at last year’s North West 200. His British Superstock series outings mean the Bingley Bullet will arrive at Portrush race-sharp on his Dunlop-shod Tyco BMW for the first of his 2017 showdowns with rival Michael Dunlop.
The first chance to see how competitive Guy will be on the new Fireblade. Recent outings at Tandragee, Scarborough and Cookstown have failed to impress, but we should have a better idea after the NW200 whether he’ll be a force to be reckoned with at TT 2017.
With 13 North West 200 victories, Michael Rutter is the only man who could close on Alastair Seeley’s alltime record of 17 wins. Like Hutchy, the Bathams/smt BMW rider is flying high in British Superstock and his runner-up performances at last year’s North West 200 and Macau GP show he still has the hunger.
Five wins at the Scarborough Spring Cup show the Silicone Engineering man is on flying form coming into the North West. But Harrison has always struggled at the seaside event and he will need a superbike motor rather than the stock engine he ran last season to be a contender at this year’s North West 200.
Mcguinness hasn’t turned a wheel in anger anywhere in 2017 yet, so he will want to lay down a marker with the new Honda Racing Fireblade. The 23-times TT winner has said he will know after the North West if his new mount will be good enough to carry him to another Superbike TT victory.
The diminutive Carrickfergus rider has 17 wins around the Triangle circuit and is hungry for more. His next target is Phillip Mccallen’s podium record, with the roads legend on 28 to Seeley’s 27. On a Tyco BMW in the Superbike and Superstock races plus Gearlink Kawasaki ZX-6R, no-one would bet against the 37-year-old achieving that.
The Fermanagh man has vowed to put his woeful 2016 season behind him and return to the winning ways he enjoyed in 2015 at the NW200 and Ulster Grand Prix. Riding a Ten Kate-built 2016-spec Honda superbike in Jackson Racing livery, the 28-year-old has been fast in pre-season testing and will be out to impress his home crowd.