200mph bar-to-bar rac­ing ends in ju­bi­la­tion for BSB star Ir­win

Motorcycle News (UK) - - This Week - By Stephen Dav­i­son MCN ROADS RE­PORTER

Glenn Ir­win and Alastair See­ley played their part in what is be­ing hailed as the great­est North West 200 race ever af­ter seven laps of bar-to-bar rac­ing to de­cide the win­ner of the fea­ture race on Satur­day af­ter­noon.

It had been a ma­jor coup for the race or­gan­is­ers to at­tract the young BSB star and Paul Bird’s Be Wiser Du­cati team to the sea­side event, and Ir­win made it clear from the out­set that he was there to win on his su­per­bike race de­but.

Ir­win’s only pre­vi­ous out­ing at the North West was in 2015, taking a podium fin­ish on a Gear­link Kawasaki af­ter two fan­tas­tic bat­tles with cir­cuit spe­cial­ist, Alastair See­ley. The pair hail from the same Co Antrim town of Car­rick­fer­gus and have been train­ing part­ners and Bri­tish Su­per­sport cham­pi­onship ri­vals – as well as close friends – for many years.

The rift af­ter a fall­ing out sev­eral years ago has now been healed but the duo’s on-track ri­valry is as fierce as ever. Ir­win’s ar­rival on the Du­cati su­per­bike at the event Tyco BMW star See­ley has dom­i­nated for the last decade guar­an­teed this year’s NW200 would be the scene of a ti­tanic strug­gle.

Ir­win man­aged just 11 laps of prac­tice on the big Du­cati, with in­ci­dents forc­ing a cut to the length of both su­per­bike qual­i­fy­ing ses­sions. De­spite this, the young BSB star posted the third fastest time be­hind See­ley and pole set­ter, Michael Rut­ter on the Bathams/ SMT BMW.

The open­ing big bike en­counter, in which Ir­win fin­ished fourth, was run on wet roads but af­ter a frus­trat­ing day of show­ers and de­lays, the 27-year-old’s hopes were ful­filled when the skies cleared be­fore the fi­nal race of the day, the seven-lap fea­ture su­per­bike race.

“This is what I wanted and what ev­ery­one has come to see,” said Ir­win on the start line be­fore blast­ing into an early lead ahead of Tyco BMW’S Ian Hutchin­son and Michael Rut­ter. The early laps were an Ir­win ver­sus Hutchy tus­sle as See­ley bat­tled to catch the pair fol­low­ing a slug­gish start. But by half dis­tance he had joined the bat­tle for the lead.

Taking an early lead

The lead­ing trio were sep­a­rated by less than a sec­ond from Rut­ter who had Michael Dun­lop on the Ben­nett’s Suzuki on his tail with Peter Hick­man (Smith’s BMW) chas­ing hard.

“I wanted to lead and do my own thing.” Ir­win ex­plained. “I don’t re­ally like slip­stream­ing be­cause you could get caught up in some­body else’s ac­ci­dent, so I led from York on the first lap.”

At 192.9 mph, Ir­win’s Du­cati was five mph slower than See­ley’s fastest speed on the BMW through the speed trap and only split sec­onds sep­a­rated the pair dur­ing the sec­ond half of the race.

See­ley, who had al­ready se­cured a hat-trick of vic­to­ries in the Su­per­sport, Superstock and open­ing Su­per­bike en­coun­ters, looked set to make it four wins from four starts on the day when he made a bril­liant pass on the Tyco BMW be­tween Metropole and Church cor­ners on the fi­nal lap to lead on to the vi­tal coast road sec­tion.

The grand­stand crowds were on their feet as they watched the duo bat­tle it out on the big screens. There was no doubt who they wanted to win when the cheers went up as Ir­win pushed his Du­cati back into the lead at Black Hill. See­ley, usu­ally the master of late brak­ing at the fi­nal Ju­niper chi­cane, had no an­swer to his younger ri­val’s de­ter­mi­na­tion and Ir­win held on to take the che­quered win by 0.172 sec­onds, with Hutchy third.

“I was sur­prised where Alastair took the lead, I didn’t see that com­ing and we were go­ing from kerb to kerb, right and left, el­bow-to-el­bow on that last lap,” said Ir­win af­ter per­form­ing a huge cel­e­bra­tory burnout and throw­ing his gloves into the crowd.

“I got Black Hill on the money on that last lap and I did to Alastair to­day what he did to me in 2015,” Ir­win added be­fore pay­ing tribute to his foe. “Be­ing the only guy to stop Alastair See­ley to­day makes this win ex­tra spe­cial. What Alastair has done at the North West is in­cred­i­ble. I have only won one race here and he has won 21!” Ir­win was taking noth­ing away from his maiden road race vic­tory though. “I came here to win and I re­ally thought I could,” he added. “Ev­ery­thing was against me this week with the lack of prac­tice and then the rain to­day but when it was dry I put ev­ery­thing on the line. Peo­ple say that you ride the roads at 95%, hold­ing some­thing back, but that is b******t. I rode at 110% to­day, I left noth­ing in the pad­dock, ev­ery­thing was out there on that track.”

Great days

“The great­est ever in my time.” That was the ver­dict of North West 200 supremo, Mervyn Whyte af­ter watch­ing Glenn Ir­win’s in­cred­i­ble vic­tory in the fea­ture Su­per­bike race.

Whyte has seen all the greats of the last four decades com­pete on the fa­mous 8.9-mile North­ern Ir­ish cir­cuit as he worked his way up from mak­ing the tea to now run­ning the week­long event. The emo­tional race boss was moved to tears as he watched Ir­win’s ec­static cel­e­bra­tions af­ter win­ning his first North West 200 su­per­bike race.

“We have had some great days here think­ing back to Joey and Robert Dun­lop, Carl Fog­a­rty suc­cess and Michael Dun­lop’s dra­matic vic­tory in 2008 but this has been a very, very spe­cial day,” said Whyte.

‘We have had some great days here in my time, but this was very spe­cial’ MERVYN WHYTE, NORTH WEST BOSS

Ir­win gives it 110 per cent as See­ley re­fuses to give in

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