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...

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Sport -

MICHAEL DUN­LOP

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.

BRUCE AN­STEY

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.

IAN HUTCHIN­SON

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.

GUY MARTIN

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.

MICHAEL RUT­TER

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.

DEAN HAR­RI­SON

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.

JOHN MCGUIN­NESS

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.

ALASTAIR SEE­LEY

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.

LEE JOHNSTON

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.

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