THE FAST & FU­RI­OUS

A week of bril­liant rac­ing, crashes, con­tro­versy & weather chaos

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Sport - STEPHEN DAV­I­SON MCN ROADS RE­PORTER

As one of the world’s four in­ter­na­tional road race meet­ings, the North West 200 at­tracts the best be­tween-the-hedges ex­po­nents to its 200mph straights, twist­ing coast road and con­tro­ver­sial chi­canes each May. Set on North­ern Ire­land’s north coast, the 8.9-mile cir­cuit that links the sea-side towns of Portrush, Port­stew­art and Col­eraine has be­come a week-long fes­ti­val of road rac­ing drama.

TUES­DAY PRAC­TICE DAY

With the ac­tion set in a densely res­i­den­tial area, race or­gan­is­ers have to wait un­til ev­ery­one has set off for work or gone to school be­fore the roads are closed and prac­tice can be­gin at 10am. They must re-open by 3pm.

Af­ter the 18 new­com­ers com­pleted their ini­ti­a­tion laps the Su­per­sport, Su­per­bike, Su­per­twin and Superstock bikes took to the track for 45 min­utes each in bright sun­shine. Alastair See­ley dom­i­nated pro­ceed­ings, top­ping the times in Superstock (Tyco BMW) and Su­per­sport (Gear­link Kawasaki) with Michael Rut­ter (Bathams/smt BMW) fastest in Superstock and Martin Jes­sopp (Riders Mo­tor­cy­cles Kawasaki) head­ing the Su­per­twins timesheets.

Glenn Ir­win ( Be Wiser/ PBM Du­cati) was fifth fastest su­per­bike but the ses­sion was cut short af­ter Chris Dixon crashed at Black Hill and broke his leg, de­priv­ing both Ir­win and Michael Dun­lop (Ben­netts Suzuki) of track time.

The two quick­est laps of the day were posted dur­ing the later Superstock ses­sion. Both See­ley and Rut­ter went faster on their superstock BMWS than they had on the su­per­bikes as they ben­e­fit­ted from bet­ter con­di­tions.

THURS­DAY PRAC­TICE AND RACE DAY

Af­ter a rest day on Wed­nes­day there was both qual­i­fy­ing on Thurs­day morn- ing and rac­ing in the evening. Again the weather was per­fect but a sec­ond crash, this time in­volv­ing TT le­gend John Mcguin­ness at Prim­rose, saw the ac­tion brought to an early con­clu­sion. The Honda Rac­ing rider went down on the 100mph-plus left-han­der and was thrown over a 10-foot high fence on to the golf course. He suf­fered a com­pound frac­ture to his lower leg plus bro­ken ver­te­brae and ribs (full story page 4).

Rut­ter and his Bathams/smt BMW topped the su­per­bike qual­i­fy­ing with See­ley fastest in the superstock and 600cc classes and Jes­sopp re­tain­ing pole in the Twins.

Again See­ley posted the fastest lap of the day on his Tyco BMW Superstock S1000RR, just 1/900th of a sec­ond slower than Michael Dun­lop’s out­right lap record. The 17-times win­ner re­vealed he was ask­ing for his su­per­bike to be set up to repli­cate the superstock ma­chine.

THUSRDAY EVENING RAC­ING

Su­per­bikes weren’t in­volved in Thurs­day evening’s ac­tion which com­prised Su­per­sport, Superstock and Su­per­twins races.

Dark horse Martin Jes­sopp was the star of the night, break­ing his North West duck to win the 600cc and Twins races. See­ley was forced to re­tire from the Su­per­sport race with a blocked fuel fil­ter, leav­ing Jes­sopp (Rider’s Mo­tor­cy­cles Tri­umph) to head home Ian Hutchin­son (MCAMS Yamaha) and James Hil­lier (JG Speed­fit Kawasaki).

Jes­sopp ( Rider’s Mo­tor­cy­cles Kawasaki) set a new lap record of 110.423mph to get the bet­ter of Rut­ter (KMR Kawasaki) in the Su­per­twins event with Ivan Lintin (Dafa­bet De­vitt Rac­ing) third.

“I have been try­ing to win a race here for 10 years and now I have won two,” smiled Jes­sopp.

Rut­ter’s ER6 was built by Ryan Far­quhar who had been se­ri­ously in­jured in a crash in the same race 12 months pre­vi­ously.

See­ley bounced back from his ear­lier dis­ap­point­ment to dom­i­nate the Superstock race with a new lap record of 122.898mph on the Tyco BMW ahead

of Lee John­ston (East Coast Rac­ing BMW) and Dean Har­ri­son (Sil­i­cone Kawasaki). It was also a land­mark 25th NW200 vic­tory for the TAS Rac­ing team of Philip and Hec­tor Neill.

FRI­DAY REST DAY

The pad­dock was awash with ru­mours on Fri­day evening af­ter the Honda Rac­ing team an­nounced they were with­draw­ing from the event fol­low­ing Mcguin­ness’ crash. Spec­u­la­tion mounted that elec­tronic prob­lems with the new Fire­blade had been be­hind the smash (see page 4). It meant that Guy Martin’s only race out­ing on Satur­day would be on the Wil­son Craig CBR600RR.

SATUR­DAY RACE DAY

The fine weather of the pre­vi­ous five days came to an abrupt end as heavy show­ers cre­ated havoc for race or­gan­is­ers, teams, riders and tyre tech­ni­cians.

Su­per­sport

The open­ing Su­per­sport event just man­aged to com­plete six laps be­fore the heav­ens opened with See­ley (Gear­link Kawasaki) lead­ing home the Dun­lop broth­ers, Wil­liam (IC /Caf­frey Rac­ing Yamaha) and Michael Dun­lop (MD Rac­ing Yamaha). There had been some con­tro­versy as to whether the race should have been stopped af­ter rain started to fall on the penul­ti­mate lap, an is­sue that was to raise its head again later in the day.

Un­like Martin, who equalled his Thurs­day plac­ing of 23rd on the Craig Honda, 21-year-old Adam Mclean was in the thick of the Su­per­sport ac­tion. Mclean re­cently won the 600cc race at the Cook­stown 100 on his MSS Kawasaki ZX-6RR.

The young­ster claimed a bril­liant fourth place fin­ish ahead of es­tab­lished names like Ian Hutchin­son and James Hil­lier, but only af­ter a clash with Lee John­ston at Ju­niper chi­cane that forced the Fer­managh man out of con­tention.

Su­per­bike de­lay

Heavy rain brought a three-hour de­lay to pro­ceed­ings, that fol­lowed fu­tile at­tempts to start the first Su­per­bike race in heavy rain.

First Michael Dun­lop’s Ben­nett’s Suzuki dumped oil on the coast road when an oil seal split and the ses­sion was restarted in even worse con­di­tions fol­low­ing the clean-up.

When pole-set­ter Rut­ter wheeled his Bathams/smt BMW off the grid af­ter the sight­ing lap and Peter Hick­man, Michael Dun­lop, John­ston and Hutchin­son told tele­vi­sion com­men­ta­tors it was too wet to race, the or­gan­is­ers even­tu­ally stopped pro­ceed­ings while they waited for con­di­tions to im­prove.

Rac­ing re­sumed on wet roads with Glenn Ir­win switch­ing back to a full wet rear on his PBM Du­cati af­ter try­ing an in­ter­me­di­ate on the sight­ing lap.

Michael Dun­lop was a non-starter as once again See­ley (Tyco BMW) proved the master of the tricky con­di­tions, lap­ping five sec­onds a lap quicker than Rut­ter and win­ning the short­ened four-lap­per by 21 sec­onds with Lee John­ston taking third.

“I was wor­ried about some­one com­ing up be­hind me on in­ter­me­di­ates as the track dried out to­wards the end,” said See­ley as he won his third race of the 2017 meet­ing.

Su­per­twins

The Su­per­twins race was an­other close af­fair with Rut­ter (KMR Kawasaki) hold­ing off Dan Cooper (KW Elec­tri­cal Kawasaki) and Thurs­day win­ner, Jes­sopp. It was the rejuvenated Rut­ter’s 14th NW200 win and his fourth podium fin­ish of the week.

Su­per­bike and Superstock

The last two races were switched as the Superstock event was brought for­ward and the fea­ture Su­per­bike sched­uled to be the fi­nal race of the event.

The sec­ond stocker race was to prove con­tro­ver­sial when a fan­tas­tic bat­tle be­tween See­ley, Hutchin­son, Rut­ter and John­ston was red-flagged af­ter yet an­other rain shower on the penul­ti­mate lap.

See­ley was de­clared the win­ner, his fourth win of the week, but Hutchy and John­ston in par­tic­u­lar were crit­i­cal of the or­gan­is­ers for not stop­ping the race sooner af­ter the lead­ing riders put their hands up to in­di­cate the con­di­tions were too danger­ous for rac­ing.

The rain cleared for the fi­nal fea­ture su­per­bike race, which was an epic bat­tle be­tween Glenn Ir­win (Be Wiser/pbm Du­cati) and See­ley on the Tyco BMW.

Ian Hutchin­son, Michael Dun­lop, Michael Rut­ter and Peter Hick­man all played ma­jor sup­port­ing roles, but on the last lap it was a deter­mined Glenn Ir­win who made the de­ci­sive move on See­ley along the coast road to claim a su­per­bike race win at his first big bike at­tempt at the North West 200.

■ Mcguin­ness out of this year’s Isle of Man TT– see full story, page 4 – and Guy Martin’s TT in jeaopardy, page 6.

‘It was the rejuvenated Rut­ter’s 14th NW200 win’ STEPHEN DAV­I­SON

Glenn Ir­win on his way to Su­per­bike vic­tory over Alastair See­ley

Su­per­bike ac­tion gets un­der­way. Un­like the TT, the NW200 has a full-on mass start Rut­ter leads Cooper and Jes­sopp in the Su­per­twins

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