This year marked 90 years of the famous North West 200 road race held on the north coast of Northern Ireland around Portrush, Portstewart and Coleraine. The circuit is 8.97 miles in length with riders reaching up to speeds of 200mph.
Well known riders such as the Dunlop’s (Joey, Robert, William and Michael) have ridden here, Alastair Seeley, Bruce Anstey, Phillip McCallen and Michael Rutter to name a few. This year was no exception with the riders all competing for the podium finish in 8 races.
THE NIGHT BEFORE: THE PADDOCK
The evening before (Saturday) race day gives fans the opportunity to meet and greet riders in the Paddock at the Start/Finish line each year. This year was no different with some of the big names out to greet the fans.
Alastair Seeley, with a total of 24 wins at the NW200, was out representing Be Wiser Racing Team in the Paddock. Hungry for his 25th win, he was eager to make it happen at the 90th Anniversary.
Another local man who showed his face was Glenn Irwin along with his team mate James Hillier. Glenn has been racing on the roads for 5 years with his first appearance in 2015 taking his career to a new level with a podium finish in the Supersport class.
Various other riders were in the Paddock showing their face including Peter Hickman, Dean Harrison and David Johnson.
Every year it’s a gamble on what the weather will be like as Northern Ireland isn’t particularly known for the sun appearing too often. This year was unfortunately no exception with rain coming down for most of the morning. This proved frustrating for the riders, spectators and marshals unsure on when and if racing was going to take place.
Race 1 – Supersport Race
With the rain making a bit of a clearing the organisers decided to get the grid filled up and attempt to start the racing. The first race up was the Supersport Race with the riders on the grid ready to go with two practice laps and a short period to allow for adjustments. It didn’t last long as the bikes headed back from their warmup due to a 5 minute delay caused by an oil spill. After the clean up the riders went on their opening lap but a red flag was given as a rider had come off at Black Hill.
After further delays and the roads having been cleaned, it was off again for another attempt of the warm up lap. With the event seemingly headed in one direction, another red flag was given, this time as Alastair Seeley’s machine was having issues on the second lap along with Spanish rider Victor Lopez coming off his machine at Black Hill.
With the weather clearing away and the rain stopping for a moment, it gave the Supersport Race another chance. This time the four laps were completed bringing a close to the first race with Davy Todd in first, Derek McGee second and Conor Cummins third.
Race 2 – Superbike Race
The Superbike race proved to be a little easier with the weather seemingly having dried up to allow the riders to get track time.
With the grid filled up, the bikes headed out on 2 wet practice laps followed by 1 warm up lap and then a 5 lap race.
Having completed 5 competitive laps around the circuit the win came home for local Glenn Irwin with his team mate James Hillier coming in second after losing to late brakes by Irwin at Juniper Chicane on the last lap with Conor Cummins following up in third.
Race 3 – Supertwin Race
With the Supertwin race beginning I took position between the grid and York Corner getting action shots of the bikes as they passed around the corner near Millbank Avenue.
Four laps down and Jeremy McWilliams had won the race with Christian Elkin bringing up the rear in second and Michael Rutter in third.
Race 4 – Superstock Race
With what was to be the second last race of the day, the superstock bikes headed out for a 6 lap race.
The Superstock Race finished with James Hillier at the top spot with Richard Cooper 3.26 seconds behind followed by Davey Todd at 3.387 seconds.
The Dreary Ending
With the infamous North West 200 Superbike Race being the last race of the day, it was the race that riders had their eye on. With the rain starting to reappear after a dry spell during the day, the organisers decided to cut the race to 4 laps. As the weather began to get worse, riders started dropping out from the grid and after a warmup with the few riders, the organisers cancelled the final race of the day.
It may have not been the ending people had wanted to see, but for the riders it was the right choice. With two days of dry and sunny racing during the week it was hard to complain.
Photos & Words: Ross McCully