Road Racing News

Vauxhall International North West 200: Preview – Part 1 – Superbike Races

Once again, event organisers have secured a truly world class field, for the Superbike races of the upcoming Vauxhall International North West 200, which includes Triangle titans Glenn Irwin and Alastair Seeley.

After last years exhilarating, captivating and dramatic battle for feature Superbike honours between them, many are tipping the Be Wiser Ducati/Tyco BMW racers, as the ones to beat in next weeks big bike encounters, on the coast roads.

In particular most successful rider in North West 200 history, Seeley, will be keen to reassert his authority within the Superbike class, as he aims to increase his already momentous tally of 21 wins on the fabled Triangle course.

Photo by Stephen Davison

Respected rival Irwin, currently sitting fourth in the British Superbike Championship standings, race win last year, was without a doubt one of the most popular, international roads victories of modern times.

Will he make it back to back feature Superbike successes, in just over a weeks time? It’s an undoubted possibility, the competition though is stern.

Outside of Irwin and Seeley, lots of attention will also be on high profile, new Tyco BMW signing Michael Dunlop.

Photo by Rod Neill

Perhaps going in, a touch under the radar, you can never discount the Ballymoney racer, given his ultra determined persona, core talent, top notch race tactics and the fact that he’s still the lap record holder around the Triangle.

With this in mind, it wouldn’t at all be a surprise if he concludes his TT 2018 prep, in the best possible fashion with Superbike triumphs, at an event at which, his current tally of wins, stands at a modest by his standards, five.

Team mate, Dan Kneen, who was in fine form at last weekends Around A Pound Tandragee 100, Riders Motorcycles Martin Jessopp, Gulf BMW’s David Johnson, Martin Jones Racing’s Michael Sweeney add further depth to BMW Motorrad’s North West presence, same applies to meeting stalwart Michael Rutter.

Photo by Rod Neill

14 times an event winner, the evergreen Rutter, part again of the Bathams SMT Racing set up, consistently year in year out, contends at the sharp end of the big bike races.

Another undoubted contender for race honours, the same notion applies to Smiths Racing’s Peter Hickman.

Considered by many, as the current best all rounder in terms of short circuits/roads competition, it’s going to be interesting to see how competitive he is next week, with TT 2018 just around the corner.

Similarly, it’s going to be intriguing to see how competitive, fitness permitting, Ian Hutchinson is. Recently back racing at an EMRA meeting at Mallory Park, you can tell the Bingley racer has lost none of his pace, will to win.

It’s going to be tough though in my opinion, for the 16 times TT winner, to contend at minimum for top five finishes, it’s going to take all his talent, grit, aptitude and herculean like determination, to be in the mix for results of this ilk.

Photo by Steve Snelling

Honda Racing team mate Lee Johnston, who hasn’t as yet raced the SP2 Fireblade, is confident of beginning his 2018 international roads tenure, with an abundance of top class results.

Three times a NW200 race winner, ‘General Lee’ has the undoubted pedigree, pace to be contending at the sharp end of the upcoming Superbike encounters, the question will be though how competitive will the SP2 Fireblade, be in performance terms, in comparison to BMW’s S1000RR, the ZX-10RR Kawasaki, and the Be Wiser Ducati?

It’s a proposition also facing Padgetts Racing’s Conor Cummins, holder of the number 1 plate for the 1000cc races at TT 2018, who’s gained a strong amount of track time in the lead up to Triangle competition, via sampling two of the opening rounds of the British Superbike Championship.

Yamaha have no official presence within the entry, but enjoy strong representation courtesy of Temple Golf Club Yamaha’s William Dunlop, former Superstock lap record holder, Horst Saiger and multi IRRC Supersport series winner, Laurent Hoffmann.

Kawasaki’s challenge is anticipated to be led by a brace of extremely talented racers, who’s career CV’s all include a TT victory, Silicone Engineering Racing’s Dean Harrison, Quattro Plant/JG Speedfit Kawasaki’s James Hillier and NW200 returnee Lee Hardy Racing’s Gary Johnson.

All three have the proven credentials to contend and seal standout results, don’t discount as well McAdoo Kawasaki’s Adam McLean/James Cowton and the very much on form Derek McGee, from springing a surprise or two.

Fellow next gen roads competitors hoping to claim a famous scalp or two, include Sam West, Craig Neve, Dominic Herbertson, Daley Mathison, Dan Cooper, newcomer Davey Todd, plus IRRC Supersport champion Joey Den Besten and leading French racer Xavier Denis.

Photo by Tommy Vennard

Overall a quite brilliant entry, for the North West 200 Superbike races of 2018.

After the thrilling feature race encounter of 2017, it’s fair to say expectations from thousands of race fans, are for more races of the absolute same quality, from a selection of the world’s finest pure road racers.

When you mix works riders, high level independent/privateer competitors, and hungry next generation closed roads exponents, you know your guaranteed first class action.

Expect this in some, on Saturday, with 50 plus riders set to battle it out, for big bike success, at the ever popular Vauxhall International North West 200.

Words by Stevie Rial