North West 200 Hall of Fame
We’ve compiled the ultimate Hall of Fame for those amazing riders who have set records, broken records and left a legacy at the North West 200. Check them out…
Cheshire’s Williams will always be in the North West 200 record books as he was the first rider ever to have taken a hat-trick of wins, the victories coming in the 1974 350cc, 500cc and 750cc races, all on Yamaha machinery. Later that year, he achieved the same feat at the Ulster Grand Prix.
At the North West 200 though, he first came to prominence with third in the 1971 500cc race and two years later he improved his results to a brace of seconds in the 250cc and 350cc races. His form was transferred onto the World stage too and he was soon snapped up by the Heron Suzuki team, winning the 1976 Belgian Grand Prix and becoming the first rider to lap the TT Course at more than 110mph.
Success at the North West was missing that year but he was back to winning ways in 1977 with a 500cc-Superbike double although it could have been a hat-trick as he ran out of fuel whilst leading the opening Superbike race with less than 500 yards to go. 1978 would prove to be his last ever North West 200 with third, and the fastest lap of the race, coming in the 500cc race as, sadly, he lost his life later that year at the Ulster Grand Prix.
Tony Rutter made his North West 200 debut in 1970 and was immediately successful taking a podium, third, in the 250cc race. A year later it was a similar result in the 350cc race and he didn’t have to wait long for his first victory around the ‘Triangle’ as he did a 250cc-350cc double in 1973, both times coming home ahead of John Williams.
The Midlands rider established himself as a formidable force at all of the International road races in the 1970s and the 1976 meeting saw him take no less than three runners-up spots in the 250cc, 350cc and 750cc races. By this time he’d turned professional and was more than getting to grips with the bigger bikes too as seen by his rides with the JPS Norton and Honda Britain Endurance teams.
1977 saw Rutter back on the top step of the podium with a win in both the 250cc and 350cc races, the latter coming after a dead heat with Ray McCullough, the only tie in the history of the event. Two years later, he grabbed another double this time in the 250cc and 750 races, the latter being his first ‘big bike’ win. 1979 saw a similar story with yet another double, this time in the 350cc and 500cc races, as well as a brace of seconds in the 1000cc races, his versatility again confirmed.
His last victory came in the 1982 350cc, a decade that saw him take four consecutive World Formula Two Championships for Ducati between 1981 and 1984. Despite entering veteran status, he was still very much at the top of his game but an accident at Montjuich Park, Spain in 1985 left him with serious injuries which effectively ended his career. His final NW200 tally read nine wins and 21 podiums.
It was as a relative unknown in 1976 when Joey Dunlop took his first North West 200 podium, finishing third behind Ian Richards and Tony Rutter in the 250cc race and he improved by one position in the corresponding race a year later. He was out of luck in 1978 but that all changed in 1979 when he took a superb 1000cc double on the 750cc Rea Racing Yamaha.
After the death of his brother-in-law Mervyn Robinson at the 1980 meeting, Dunlop almost quit the sport but ultimately decided to carry on and the rest, as they say, is history. A year later he was part of the factory Honda team, an association that spanned for 20 years, and he immediately repaid them with a win in the 1000cc race. He was back on the winner’s list in 1983 with a 500cc-Superbike double.
By now Dunlop was the man to beat on the roads and from 1984 until 1988 he racked up at least one win a year, his best meeting coming in 1987 when he took a superb hat-trick with wins in both Superbike races and, perhaps unusually, the 750cc Production race. He repeated that win in 1988 and, amazingly, that year was the last time he took a race win at the North West but he continued to rack up the podiums with his last one, his 26th in total, coming in the 1996 250cc race.
His final year of competing at the NW200 was in 2000 when he took pole position for the Superbike races on the unfamiliar Honda SP-1 although he was out of luck in both races. He went on to take three wins at that year’s TT before tragically losing his life a month later at Tallinn, Estonia.
Younger brother of Joey, Robert Dunlop upstaged his brother at the North West 200 and it was only in 2016 when Alastair Seeley overhauled him as the most successful rider ever at the event. His first of his 15 wins came in the 1986 350cc race, the last time that particular race was ever run and his mastery of all classes could already be seen as he took a podium in the opening Superbike race of 1987.
He repeated that result in 1989 but it was between 1990 and 1994 that he established himself as the King of the North West 200. He opened up the decade with a hat-trick, winning the 125cc race and both Superbike races on the fire-breathing JPS Norton. A second successive hat-trick was taken a year later, this time in the 125cc, 250cc and Superbike races.
He had to give second best to a flying Phillip McCallen in 1992 but 1993 and 1994 saw him take his third and fourth hat-tricks, the only rider to achieve such a feat, with the latter seeing him give the Honda RC45 its first ever International race victory.
Serious injuries at the TT a month later meant that his future racing activity was confined to the 125cc class but he added another win in the 2006 125cc race and took second the year after to make it 25 podiums in total. In a cruel twist of fate, a return to the 250cc class in 2008 saw the bike seize in practice and he crashed heavily at Mathers Cross, sadly losing his life at the meeting that had given him his greatest success.
He might not have the record number of wins or podiums at the North West 200 but Phillip McCallen still holds one significant record at the event – the highest number of wins in one day (5). He achieved that in 1992 when he proved unbeatable and, had it not been for a fall in the second 250cc race it could well have been six!
The Portadown rider had established himself to be a force to be reckoned with in the late 1980s and he was soon snapped up by Honda Britain, his first podiums at the North West coming in 1990. The following year saw him claim his first victory, in the Supersport race, and despite being up against some of the finest ever road racers, including the Dunlops, Carl Fogarty, Steve Hislop, Ian Simpson and Michael Rutter, he continued to take wins and podiums throughout the decade.
Overall, McCallen took wins in the Superbike, Supersport 600, Supersport 400 and 250cc categories and although back injuries sustained in a short circuit crash led to a relatively early retirement, a switch to Yamaha in 1999, his final season, saw him take his 27th and 28th podiums with second in the Supersport race and third in the Superbike.
Welshman Lougher’s career spanned over 30 years and he was as successful at the North West 200 as he was elsewhere on the roads. Like the TT and Ulster GP, Lougher was always in contention for the wins no matter what the class and it was in 1990 when he graced the NW200 podium for the first time, three appearances being taken that year with second and third in the 250cc races and another third achieved in the 125cc race.
It was the latter that saw him have his finest moments on the Causeway Coast and although his first win came in the 1991 250cc race, it was in 1999 that he really started to be a major force. It was that year that saw him win his first 125cc race and he did the same every year up to and including 2004, the only rider to win the same race five years in a row.
By then, he was a star performer in all of the classes, podiums in the Superbike races being taken in 2000, 2004 and 2005. A Supersport win was taken in 2002 with a Superstock victory coming in 2005. His final podiums came in 2008 with a brace in the Supersport class and his record around the Triangle reads an impressive eight wins and 26 podiums.
Son of Tony, the North West 200 was where Michael Rutter made his real road racing debut in 1991 and, 26 years later, he’s still going strong. A steady few opening years saw him record solid results but in 1995 he made the breakthrough when he took second on his Ducati in the Superbike race.
That begun a period of results of the highest order from the Midlands rider and although retirements denied him two wins in 1996, he made up for it the following year with his maiden victories coming in the feature Superbike and Supersport races. Another win was taken for Honda Britain in 1998 but a switch to V&M Yamaha in 2000 saw him take a hat-trick of victories.
By this time, Rutter was very much the man to beat in the Superbike class with four wins being taken between 2003 and 2005, the middle year seeing him become the first rider to break the 200mph barrier through the speedtrap. A ninth Superbike victory came in 2008 whilst his 14th win was achieved in the second Supertwins race of 2017. With six podiums between 2017 and 2019, his overall tally now reads 34, which is the second highest of all time and only five behind Alastair Seeley.
Like many others before and since, Steve Plater’s debut on the roads came at the North West 200, in his case in 1995, and two years later he made his first impression on the leaderboard with sixth in the Supersport race and seventh in the Superstock.
By 1998, he’d gained support from Honda Britain and it was this year that saw him climb the podium at the North West for the first time with second and third in the same two races. As his career in the British Superbike Championship took off, Plater was absent from the event for a few years but he was back in 2003 and was immediately back on the rostrum with third on the SP-2 Honda in the Superbike race. Continuing with Honda, he was again on the podium in 2005 and a year later he finally took his first wins with a superb Superbike double.
A switch to Yamaha didn’t halt his progress either as 2007 and 2008 saw him take four wins in total, two in the Superbike class and two in Supersport. He then switched back to Honda for 2009 adding two more wins to his rapidly increasing tally and 2010 looked like it would give him more of the same until he crashed in the final stages of qualifying. He quit road racing soon after but remains one of the major ambassadors for the event.
Although he’d taken a podium at the 2000 TT, Bruce Anstey was still relatively unknown when he arrived at the North West 200 for the first time in 2002 but he was an instant hit, becoming one of the few riders to win on their debut around the Triangle; indeed, he’s the last newcomer to win at the meeting. Since then, he’s become one of the greatest road racers of all time and finished on the podium at least once every year between 2002 and 2015.
That first win came in the Production 1000cc race, a class where he really made his name with another win coming in 2004. He then took a brace of wins in its replacement, the Superstock class. During that period, he was an ever present member of the TAS Suzuki team and, after taking a double in 2006, he joined a select group of riders to take a hat-trick, three wins being taken in 2007.
He had to wait seven further years for his tenth victory but it finally came in the 2014 Supersport race on the Padgetts Honda, the team he joined at the beginning of 2011. As mentioned though, podiums were continually being racked up and he now has 25 to his name, the most recent coming in the 2015 Superbike race.
Alastair Seeley made his North West 200 debut in 2004 and, save for a one-off appearance at the Ulster Grand Prix, it’s the only road race he’s ever competed in. However, he’s more than made it count and since 2008 he’s recorded a staggering 24 wins to become the most successful rider in the history of the event.
A steady debut didn’t really indicate what lay ahead but in 2006, two top five finishes in the Supersport races most certainly did and a year later he claimed his first podium with second behind Bruce Anstey in the Superstock race. In 2008, he took his first win in the corresponding race and since then he’s more than established himself as the man to beat around the 8.9-mile circuit.
Riding Suzuki, Yamaha, Kawasaki and BMW machinery, Seeley has since added 20 more wins to his tally and in 2012, 2015 and 2018 he took a hat-trick of victories although he surpassed that in 2017 with four wins whilst he’s also won races across the categories – Superbike (4), Supersport (12) and Superstock (8). No one has won more races in the latter two categories.
2019 was the first year Seeley hadn’t won a race since 2007 – he also failed to finish on the podium in any of his four races – but when racing returned after the covid pandemic, he immediately chalked up yet another hat-trick. His NW200 record now reads 27 wins and 39 podiums, both of which are the highest ever figures, and the success story shows no signs of slowing down.
Words by Phil Wain.