British championship racer Richard Cooper will make his debut at the fonaCAB International North West 200 in association with Nicholl Oils in May.
Cooper will ride the factory-supported Buildbase Suzuki GSX-R1000 at the North Coast road race, joining fellow British championship stars Glenn Irwin and Alastair Seeley on the grid.
The 35-year-old’s decision to make his roads bow around the 8.9-mile ‘Triangle’ course is a major coup for the organising Coleraine and District Motor Club as the North West gears up to mark its 90th anniversary year.
Cooper endeared himself to Northern Ireland race fans with a dominant performance at the Sunflower Trophy short circuit meeting at Bishopscourt in Co Down last October, where he claimed a hat-trick of wins, including victory in the prestigious feature race.
The Nottingham rider made the trip over to Northern Ireland last week and Cooper has already completed a number of laps around the course with eight-time NW200 winner Steve Plater.
Cooper, who will compete in both Superbike and Superstock races, said: “I have a lot of experience in bike racing but road racing is the one big thing that I haven’t done – we are going to sort that now.
“The team are right behind me and we have already spoken about who will be in our North West 200 crew.
“Riders say road racing is like a drug but I won’t know until I try it whether or not I will be addicted.
“Being safe is very important but I am a racer and even in year one I won’t be there just to ride around. I am not going to the North West 200 just to break anyone’s fastest newcomer record.”
Cooper will ride for Stuart and Steve Hicken’s Buildbase Suzuki team in the National Superstock 1000 Championship as he bids to win the title for a second time following his triumph in 2011.
A fast learner, the experienced Englishman is looking forward to going up against fellow British championship riders Irwin and Seeley in May, although he refused to be drawn on any personal targets ahead of his debut on the roads.
“I have always been able to adapt quickly to new circuits,” he said.
“I believe in my own ability and I am old enough and wise enough to approach racing on the roads in the right way. I’ve raced and beaten those boys before so maybe they will see me as a threat.
“And I know how fast the Suzuki will be in a straight line through the North West speed traps.”
The Hickens’ Hawk Racing outfit previously contested the North West 200 with Michael Dunlop on the Buildbase Suzuki in 2017, who went on to win the Senior race at the Isle of Man TT on the GSX-R1000.
North West 200 Event Director, Mervyn Whyte, said he was delighted to secure Cooper’s signature for the milestone 90th anniversary race, which will take place from May 14-18.
“It is very exciting to have a BSB rider of Richard’s ability and experience making his road racing debut at the North West,” said Whyte.
“It will be enthralling to watch Richard go head to head along the Coast Road with established North West stars like Dunlop, Irwin, Seeley, Rutter, Harrison and Hickman.”