Sublime Seeley Dominates at North West 200

Last week’s North West 200 again providing some thrilling racing around the 8.9-mile course where the organisers did a sterling job to complete Saturday’s race programme after the sun and blue skies of Thursday had been replaced by some far more, challenging conditions.

Alastair Seeley NW200 2017, image credit Double Red

Sublime Seeley dominates – again:

With four wins and a second from his six races, Alastair Seeley was again the ‘Man of the Meeting’ at the North West 200, extending his record number of wins at the event to 21, and there can be no doubt the ‘Wee Wizard’ is the current master of the Triangle circuit.

With superb race craft, the 37-year old was able to put himself in the right place at the right time, irrespective of whether it was damp or dry, and the way he decimated the Superstock field in Saturday’s race – winning by over 20 seconds – was simply a masterclass in riding.

Team-mate Ian Hutchinson, like many others, was left trailing in his wake but, such is the fine tightrope at the International road races now, Seeley was extremely fortunate to get away with a terrifying moment in the final Superbike race. Going on to the grass on the 200mph run to University was certainly a wake-up call for the Ulsterman and one he’ll not have fond memories of!

Alastair Seeley NW200 2017, image credit Double Red

Hugely popular win for Irwin:

The roar from the crowd when Glenn Irwin won the feature Superbike race was, without doubt, the loudest of the day and whilst Seeley’s success has to be admired, the Be Wiser Ducati rider’s win was a huge boost for the event for all manner of reasons.

Despite it being just his second appearance at the event, and first on the Superbike, Irwin’s ride was faultless and his smooth but attacking style, as previously shown at the North West, Ulster GP and Macau GP, proved again just how accomplished a road racer he is.

The 27-year old was able to match Seeley where others had fallen short and it was a dream come true for the Ulsterman, his team and Ducati. Having made huge strides forward in the BSB paddock, where he’s already taken two podiums in 2017, it’s highly likely Irwin will focus his future efforts here but when and where he decides to compete on the roads, he’s always going to be a potential race winner.

Glenn Irwin NW200 2017, image credit Double Red

Rutter proves there’s plenty of life left:

Seeley may well have been the man of the meeting but Michael Rutter wasn’t far behind with some superb rides on both the Bathams/SMT Racing BMW’s and the IEG/KMR Kawasaki. He took his 14th victory with a calculating win in Saturday’s Supertwin race whilst he also added three more podiums to his collection to make it 31 in total since his debut at the event back in 1992.

That’s a total only bettered by Seeley’s 32 but, at 45 years old he more than proved there’s plenty more still in his locker. His win was also a fairy tale moment for team owner Ryan Farquhar who was left fighting for his life after a crash at the 2016 meeting.

Frightening crash spells end for McGuinness?

The meeting was nothing short of a disaster for the Honda Racing team with a 140mph crash in Thursday’s qualifying session leaving TT legend John McGuinness with serious injuries. The spill at Primrose Corner may spell the end of the Morecambe Missile’s career and with no immediate explanation for the crash Honda withdrew Guy Martin and their bikes from the 1000cc classes for the remainder of the meeting with the electronics system sent off for further analysis to, hopefully, identify the cause.

John McGuinness out on his super bike for Tuesday practice laps at NW200 2017, image credit Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press

McGuinness’ loyalty to Honda has been exemplary, staying with the factory since 2006, and whilst he’d previously said he probably should have retired after taking a record-breaking win in the 2015 Senior TT, he continued as he waited for the all-new Fireblade to be launched in 2017.

He hoped it would give him the opportunity to compete equally with Hutchinson and Michael Dunlop at the TT but, blighted by problems in testing – which included knocking himself out in a crash at Castle Combe in April – the machine has fallen short with the star rider now facing a lengthy spell in hospital.

No rider wants to end their career with a crash but at 45 years of age, it won’t be easy for McGuinness to return to the top level and if he bows out now, he can do so with his head held high after a majestic career.

It also leaves a question mark over the team’s participation at the Isle of Man TT in just two weeks’ time. Martin was well off the pace before being withdrawn from the Superbike and Superstock races and fared even worse in the Supersport class. The Japanese giant certainly has some trying times ahead.

Having started watching motorcycle races all over the world form childhood, Phil Wain has been a freelance motorcycle journalist for 15 years and is features writer for a number of publications including BikeSport News and Classic Racer, having also been a regular contributor to MCN and MCN Sport. He is PR officer for a number of teams and riders at both the British Superbike Championship and International road races, including Smiths Triumph, Quattro Plant Kawasaki, John McGuinness, Ryan Farquhar and Keith Amor. He is also heavily involved with the Isle of Man TT Races, writing official press releases and race reports as well as providing ITV4 with statistical information.