CARRICKFERGUS speedster Alastair Seeley has his sights set on another North West 200 milestone.
At last year’s event the ‘Wee Wizard’ became the first Irishman to win the Superbike race since Phillip McCallen in 1997.
But the 31-year-old, who is being tipped as the man to beat at this year’s event, has targeted another of McCallen’s records - five wins in one day.
Seeley knows a clean sweep will be tough, but he has started the season well with a win in the British Supersport class at Brands Hatch and will hope to take advantage of the absence of Honda riders John McGuinness and Keith Amor, who are on World Endurance duty in Spain.
“It would be tough to win all five races in a day and you would need a lot of luck but you only have to look at what Ian Hutchinson did at the TT last year to believe it is possible,” said Seeley, who has four North West wins to his name.
“I tested all three bikes at Kirkistown and everything was very positive. I may not have ridden the Superbike this season but it’s only six months since I rode it competitively in British Superbikes, so I’m very familiar with it.
“A lot will depend on the weather - if it’s wet it could throw things up in the air and make it a bit of a lottery.
“Obviously riding against the likes of Steve Plater in 2008 and 2009 when he was probably king of the North West helped me and I learnt a lot from him.
“It’s the same with Michael Rutter who has done a lot more miles than me around the North West and I’m sure I would learn things from him if I was riding with him.
“Everybody wants to win the big Superbike races – they are the pinnacle of the day and the best races to win.
“I feel that I could have won both Superbike races last year if the first race been another lap longer.
“But it didn’t happen and I made up for it in the second race by winning.
“It would be nice to win the two big races but it’s nice to win any race at the North West because they all carry international status.
“I do my research every year and put the effort in to try and win at the North West.”
Joining Seeley in the distinctive black and white Suzuki colours will be Lincolnshire rider Guy Martin, who is still seeking his first North West win after finishing on the podium four times.
Leading the Antipodean challenge will be Australian Cameron Donald and New Zealander Bruce Anstey.
Both riders have changed teams since last year with Anstey now competing for the Padgett’s Honda outfit and Donald representing Wilson Craig Honda.
Anstey will hope to add to his tally of nine wins while Donald has yet to open his account on the ‘Triangle’ circuit.
Donald is partnered by William Dunlop, a double winner in the two-stroke classes in 2009.
Kawasaki will be well represented among many of the leading contenders this year. Michael Dunlop will campaign a Paul Bird-prepared Kawasaki in the Superbike and class and rides a Street Sweep Kawasaki in the Superstock event.
The 22-year-old Ballymoney rider switches to Yamaha machinery for the Supersport 600cc class.
Manxman Conor Cummins has made a remarkable recovery from injuries sustained at last year’s Isle of Man TT and is fit to take his place on the grid, with backing again coming from McAdoo Kawasaki.
Veteran Welshman Ian Lougher again rides Blackhorse Kawasakis in a bid to add to his eight successes.
Ryan Farquhar will be determined to add to his three wins on his KMR Kawasakis and will hope to bring his outstanding form on the Irish national roads to the international scene.
Stuart Easton showed his ability by finishing second in last year’s second Superbike race and he will be a threat on board the MSS Colchester-prepared Kawasakis on which he competes in the British Championship.
Michael Rutter, a 12-time winner and current Superstock lap record holder, will ride the Ducati on which he has performed creditably in this year’s British Superbike series.
Unfortunately Ian Hutchinson has been forced to sit out the event after failing to recover from serious leg injuries sustained in a crash at Silverstone last September.
The Bingley rider was hopeful of making an appearance on his Swan Yamahas but had to admit defeat last week in his efforts to be fit.
NW200 Technical director Mervyn Whyte MBE confirmed that almost 300 entries have been received for this year’s programme.
“We’re delighted to welcome new and seasoned riders from all over the world including France, Switzerland, Holland, Italy and Hungary as well as USA, New Zealand and Australia and all the home nations,” he said.
“On behalf of Coleraine & District Motor Club I would like to thank our title sponsor Relentless Energy Drink for all their support and funding.
“We appreciate the hard work put in by the team in Ireland and across the water and we look forward to working together again next year.
“I would also like to pay tribute to Coleraine Borough Council for all their support in cash and in kind.
“Their partnership with the NW200 has now been aptly branded as Coleraine Borough – Home of the North West 200 and it’s a theme we aim to help them expand and develop in then coming years.”
Meanwhile, the world’s largest mobile LED high definition screen is on its way to this year’s Relentless International North West 200. With the audience’s enjoyment in mind the Coleraine & District Motor Club has also decided that for this year’s race day a further screen will now be placed on the golf course opposite Juniper Hill chicane.
Tuesday practice - Roads close from 5.00pm until 9.15pm
Thursday practice - Roads close from 9.30am until 3.00pm
Saturday 21 May - Roads close 10.00am