North West 200
Alastair Seeley took Saturday’s only race victory at the rain-lashed “Relentless International North West 200” and gave the all-new GSX-R600 Suzuki its first top step of an International Supersport podium this year.
And in the second race of the day – the Superbike event – Seeley came from the third row of the grid – again in soaking-wet conditions – to lead at the end of lap one.
Unfortunately for the riders and the fans, the race was red-flagged on lap two when another rider’s engine expired, leaving a massive oil spill on the Coast Road from Church Corner to Juniper Hill chicane.
Despite a lengthy delay – and the best attention from the organisers – the meeting was abandoned on safety grounds.
Seeley had been in prolific form throughout the week-long North West 200 event, taking pole positions in both Supersport and Superstock classes, and despite an electrical problem forcing him to sit out the majority of Thursday’s Superbike session, the former British Superstock Champion and current North West 200 lap-record holder made the grid after a tremendous show of allegiance from British Superbike teammate Josh Brookes.
While Seeley continued his North West 200 preparations on the Causeway Coast, Australian Brookes traveled to Kirkistown Race Circuit early on Friday morning to make sure the Carrickfergus man’s GSX-R1000 was ready to race following a late-night session from his crew back in the team’s Moneymore workshop.
And only for the oil spill in the race, Brookes’ generous gesture would have played a significant role in the anticipated victory.
Alastair Seeley (Relentless Suzuki by TAS GSX-R1000) says: “That’s an International Road Racing victory to add to the British Supersport win at Brands for the new GSX-R600. It was a great race to be involved in and even more pleasing to beat what is basically a World Supersport specification Honda.
“I knew I would be stronger into the chicanes despite Cameron using traction control on his bike, as the brakes on the new GSX-R600 are one of its best features and that gave me a lot of confidence in the wet.”
“In the Superbike race, the plan was the pick them off and get into the lead so I wouldn’t have to sit in anyone’s spray. The speed of my GSX-R1000 was far superior to Ryan and Michael’s bikes and the way it was set-up, I was actually enjoying it spinning up down the big straights in the wet.
“I was ready to pull the pin and just ride my own race, so it was disappointing to see a red flag on lap two. I really felt like I was in control this week in all classes and having felt so comfortable in the wet I think we’d have been hard to beat. That five of McCallen’s was definitely a big target.”
Guy Martin (Relentless Suzuki by TAS GSX-R1000) says: “It was a tough day for everyone involved and a week’s worth of effort for just one race. Unfortunately I made the wrong tyre choice.
“To come away with eighth place is nothing to shout about but I am now going to the Isle of Man full of confidence; confidence in the blokes working on the bikes and confidence in the bikes themselves. It was a terrible day for the people who turned out to watch the racing, but a confidence-building day for the bigger picture – the bigger picture being the TT.”
Philip Neill (Relentless Suzuki by TAS Team Manager) says: “The North West 200 has always been one of my favourite events on the calendar and as Ireland’s biggest sporting occasion it’s a shame to see such a great event abandoned due to unforeseen circumstances. Mervyn Whyte and his team from the Coleraine & District Motor Club did everything in their power to save the day and must be commended for their efforts.
“On a positive note we had a strong showing from both our riders in practice and we won the only race giving us a 100% record for our sponsors Relentless, Suzuki and all our other team partners. It really was a masterful display from Alastair Seeley in that Supersport race giving Suzuki and the new GSX-R600 its first international road race victory.
“What is even more special is the fact that we were running the bike with very limited British Supersport specification electronics; unlike some of our main rivals who were running fancy electronic aids including traction control.
“We dearly wanted the Superbike race to run full distance as in all honesty with Alastair coming through from the third row of the grid to lead within a lap, there was no beating the wee Carrickfergus man, although it was the correct decision to stop the race and eventually abandon the meeting on safety grounds.
“Guy made a solid debut on the international roads for our team. Unfortunately he took a gamble with his intermediate tyre choice in the Supersport race and with everyone else on wets – which was the correct choice – makes his eighth place an impressive finish given the conditions. More importantly for Guy is the fact that he now feels really confident with his three GSX-R Suzukis, which he now believes he can take to success at the Isle of Man TT Races in two weeks’ time.”
2011 North West 200 Supersport Results [5 laps – 8.9 mile circuit]:
1. Alastair Seeley [Relentless Suzuki by TAS] 4mins 55.835
2. Cameron Donald [Honda] +0.844
3. Bruce Anstey [Honda] +14.081
4. Michael Dunlop [Yamaha] +23.104
5. Gary Johnson [Honda] +25.227
6. William Dunlop [Honda] +28.845
7. Ryan Farquhar [Kawasaki] +42.558
8. Guy Martin [Relentless Suzuki by TAS] +58.777
Fastest Lap – Alastair Seeley [lap 5] 109.155 mph