Alastair Seeley dominated the opening evening of racing at the Vauxhall International North West 200 with victories in both the Ballymoney Borough Council Supersport and Live Wire AV Solutions Superstock races.
The 33 year old Carrickfergus man took his North West victory tally into double figures as he won from the second group on the Gear Link Kawasaki in the opening Supersport event and following up with victory in the Superstock race on the MSS Colchester Kawasaki ZX10. It was a clinically professional performance from the Wee Wizard in extremely difficult conditions after heavy rain soaked the track just before racing began on the 8.9 mile Triangle course.
Afterwards a jubilant Seeley said ‘That’s win number ten here and into fifth on the all-time winner’s league. It has been a tremendous evening in difficult conditions and I have to thank MSS and Gearlink Kawasaki for providing superb machines. Roll on Saturday.”
Although he started the Superstock race from pole position he had to hunt down and pass early leaders Gary Johnson (Lincs Lifting Kawasaki) and Bruce Anstey (HM Plant/Padgett’s Honda). Seeley pipped Kiwi Anstey to the flag by 0.3 seconds on the last lap but his Supersport win was a real battle of attrition after he was forced to start from deep in the second group following machine problems in practice that hampered his Gear Link Kawasaki. Michael Dunlop appeared to have the race sown up when he started the final lap 5.5 seconds in front on his MDR Honda. Dunlop was initially directed to the Number One slot in the winners’ enclosure when he finished the race but Seeley nipped in for victory by 1.3 seconds after a huge effort on the last lap. Dunlop, who had dominated both practice sessions, was gutted by the result and never really figured in either the Vauxhall Supertwins and Superstock race that followed.
BSB man Josh Brookes made an honourable start to his career between the hedges, taking seventh spot on the Tyco Suzuki in the decidedly iffy conditions.
The Supertwins event had an unexpected twist on the opening laps as William Davison (Hill Contracts Kawasaki) from Kilrea took the fight to pole position man Jeremy McWilliams (Vauxhall KMR Kawasaki). But Davison slid off without injury on the final lap at Black Hill, leaving the Grand Prix veteran McWilliams to win his first North West.
“This ticks a box I have always wanted. To win a North West 200 race is an amazing feeling. It also lays a few ghosts to rest for the doubters who cast doubts on whether I could win a road race or not.” the 49 year old said afterwards.
His victory meant that the Glengormley rider became the first Irish rider to win both a world championship Grand Prix race and a North West 200 race since Tom Herron, who won the Senior TT in 1976 the last year it counted for world championship points. Herron also won his last North West race in 1978.
Vauxhall KMR Kawasaki boss Ryan Farquhar, who won the same race last year, was delighted as his young protégé Jamie Hamilton grabbed third spot behind James Hillier on the Quattro Plant Kawasaki.
Seeley’s performance on Thursday night establishes him as the firm favourite in both the Supersport and Superstock races on Saturday but he will have his work cut out as he must also start from the second wave on the MSS Colchester ZX10 Kawasaki superbike after further problems with that machine in practice.
Michael Dunlop starts from pole on the Honda TT Legends Fireblade with Bruce Anstey (HM Plant/Padgett’s Honda) second fastest and Tyco Suzuki’s Guy Martin third.
Roads close at 10am with racing commencing at 11. The five races on the programme are the McKendry Fabrications Supersport race, Event Serv Superbike race, Anchor Complex Supertwin race , CP Hire Superstock race and the Vauxhall North West 200 Superbike feature race.