Can Alastair Seeley become the most successful rider of all time at the North West 200?
That’s the burning question ahead of this year’s event, which gets under way this week.
The man they call the ‘Wee Wizard’ equalled the late Robert Dunlop’s tally of 15 wins on the 8.9 mile Triangle circuit that takes in the towns of Portrush, Portstewart and Coleraine last season. Now he is determined to move ahead and claim the record for himself.
“It would mean a lot to get that 16th win,” the 36 year old said.
“I started out at the North West just having a bit of craic and then the wins started to come and I got offered good machinery. The wins started tallying up and over the last few years they have been coming in twos and threes and that is when they really start adding up.
“Eventually you take a look and see who has the record and I saw it was Robert on 15.
“At one stage I was down on 10 and then we got a couple more and last year we rolled up on 12 and got a hat trick. It is hard to get one win at the North West with all the luck that you need and having to get yourself into the right place to challenge but to get three is unbelievable.”
Now that Seeley is within touching distance of the all-time mark he is determined to get over the line and stamp his own authority on the record books.
“I would like to get the one but it would be nice to get a few more and maybe stretch it a little bit,” he smiled.
“Records are always there to be broken and I am sure if I do do it then any mark that I set will be broken in the future by the young cubs.
“I didn’t start winning at the North West until I was 28 whereas these young guys coming through now are 21 or 22 and if they can get the circuit dialled in quickly they will have a chance of getting a lot of wins.”
Seeley will be on the same superbike-spec S1000RR BMW he rode last year but in RAF Reserves/Briggs livery rather than the Tyco colours he won on in 2015. Seeley will also ride another RAF/Briggs BMW in superstock trim and a Gear Link Kawasaki in the Supersport events.
“The team have Peter Hickman’s (who rode the RAF Reserves/Briggs bike last year) settings but obviously the difference between him and me, given our different sizes and styles, is like night and day.” Seeley said.
“It is important to roll up to the NW200 fit and healthy and confident in the bike.
“It is all about strategy at the North West, getting yourself in the right place at the right time.
“I have been looking at the DVDs from last year and some riders were scrambling to get themselves into position and it wasn’t happening for them. I can see that and learn from it.”
Seeley sees the biggest threat coming from Lee Johnston on the East Coast Construction/Burdens BMW.
“Going by the form book, yes, he will be the man to beat.” Seeley admited.
“He is on the same BMW he rode last year and he will have all of his data for that. He is doing plenty of testing and he is comfortable with the bikes and his surroundings so it will feel good to him.
“Then there is Ian Hutchinson, the Dunlop brothers, William and Michael, Bruce Anstey, Conor Cummins and Gary Johnson. They will make my life very hard.”