Few events boast such history, prestige, allure as one of pure road racing’s jewels in the crown, the FonaCAB & Nicholl Oils North West 200. A who’s who and more of international road racing are Coleraine bound including six times successive, Superbike race winner Glenn Irwin. Making no secret of his desire to dominate SBK competition around the world-famous Triangle course, his latest NW200 tenure sees him back in the Paul Bird Motorsport fold, racing the BeerMonster Ducati. BSB Championship leader after Monday’s race stints at Oulton Park, he’s step by step gelling nicely with Ducati’s World Superbike Championship dominating V4R Panigale model. Competitors keen to stop Irwin making it seven Superbike triumphs in a row include FHO Racing BMW’s in-form Josh Brookes. Already twice a race winner in this year’s BSB series, the Australian knows what it takes to front run on the coast roads and in my opinion, he will be a definite front running factor next week. Another likely front runner, well that is putting it mildly! Is the most victorious rider in NW200 history, Alastair Seeley. Keen to regain the feature Superbike race title, the ‘Wee Wizard’ heads TAS Racing/Milwaukee BMW’s challenge. Is a first big bike success since 2017 on the horizon for the Carrickfergus racer? It’s going to be a tough task given the potent opposition. Outright lap record holder, nine times TT winner Peter Hickman as yet hasn’t cracked an NW200 Superbike win. Astride like aforementioned FHO Racing team-mate Josh Brookes, M1000RR BMW machinery, you’d be brave not to consider him one of the big pre-race favourites. Others with designs on victories, podium finishes include DAO Racing Kawasaki’s Dean Harrison, F900R BMW Cup Championship leader Richard Cooper, 113 times Irish road race winner Michael Dunlop (Hawk Racing Honda), James Hillier (Lami OMG Racing Yamaha). The Milenco by Padgetts pairing of Conor Cummins and National Superstock 1000 Champion, King of The Roads winner Davey Todd, Ashcourt Racing’s Lee Johnston. 21st Century roads heroes Michael Rutter (Bathams Racing), John McGuinness MBE (Honda Racing) although now considered veterans, still have the drive, determination, ambition to be in the mix for forthright finishes. The depth of the Superbike field is endless, the entry also features new Honda Racing signing Nathan Harrison, Michael Sweeney, PreZ Racing’s Paul Jordan. Michael Browne (BE/RK Racing), Craig Neve (Bathams Racing), Sam West (PRL/Moto Hub), Julian Trummer (WH Racing), Macau Grand Prix winner Erno Kostamo. American ace Chris Sarbora, Lukas Maurer and notable newcomers including twice Senior Manx Grand Prix runner-up Stephen Parsons, David Datzer (MTP Racing) and two times IRRC Supersport Champion, World Endurance Championship legend Matthieu Lagrive (Optimark). Overall, another quite brilliant entry for the NW200 Superbike encounters of 2023. Road racing fans new, experienced, super experienced are brimming with excitement for more joyous, pulsating SBK coast roads action. When you combine factory supported rider, top level independent/privateer racers and ambitious next generation road racers, you truly know your guaranteed gripping racing. Photo’s by Rod Neill, Tommy Vennard, Allister Dickson – Startline Photography, Photo courtesy of Stephen Davison Words by Stevie Rial #dontletfearcontrolyou
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