Retro Rewind: Adrian Archibald seals maiden NW200 victory in 2003 Production race
Adrian Archibald edged out fellow Northern Ireland rider Ryan Farquhar to earn his maiden victory at the North West 200 in the Production race in 2003.
The Ballymoney man had long been coveting a major win on the big stage in Portrush and finally broke his duck around the 8.9-mile ‘Triangle’ with a hard-earned win for Hector Neill’s TAS Suzuki team.
On a day of delays due to inclement weather and several incidents, the Production race was initially red-flagged on lap two when German rider Friedhelm Beltermann crashed at Mathers Cross, escaping serious injury.
Then, on the warm-up lap for the second attempt at running the race, Lancashire’s Keith Nicholls crashed on the approach to Juniper chicane, suffering a broken arm and leg. A delay of around one hour ensued as oil was cleaned from the scene of the accident.
The Production race was cut to four laps and from the off it was Dungannon man Farquhar who shot into the lead ahead of TAS Suzuki riders David Jefferies and Archibald, who had qualified on pole.
At University on lap one, Farquhar ran wide on the brakes, allowing New Zealand’s Bruce Anstey – a winner on his debut at the event in the Production race in 2002 – to sweep through into the lead.
Archibald and Jefferies also took advantage of Farquhar’s error to take up the charge behind Anstey, while Archibald then moved into the lead at the end of the opening lap, sneaking through on Anstey’s inside at Quarry Hill.
Despite the patchy conditions, both Farquhar and Jefferies smashed the lap record, with Jefferies’ speed of 115.566mph going down as the new benchmark for the class, while Farquhar managed 115.426mph on Kenny Harker’s Suzuki.
Archibald, who could sense his maiden success at the North West was in his grasp, had a target on his back and Farquhar was soon on level terms with the race leader after demoting Anstey to third.
He made his move at Mill Road roundabout to snatch the lead from Archibald, with the duo now opening a slight gap over Anstey and Jefferies.
On a thrilling final lap, Archibald lined up a pass into Juniper chicane on the brakes and Farquhar was powerless to prevent his rival from re-taking the lead at the critical point in the race.
From here, Farquhar had no time to hit back and Archibald crested Quarry Hill with the finish line in sight to secure his first ever win at the North West.
Farquhar narrowly held off Jefferies to seal the runner-up spot, with Anstey coming home in fourth on his Suzuki.
Archibald said: “At the chicane on the last lap I knew I had to go for it and I just got in on the inside, but it was a tight race.”
A frustrated Farquhar said he had to contend with machine issues on the last lap.
“From the (Ballysally) roundabout on, it just kept misfiring and I thought somebody was going to hit me from behind, and at one point I hit the screen so hard with my helmet that I nearly broke my visor.”
Yorkshireman Jefferies was pleased to see his team-mate clinch his debut victory at the event on a ‘good day’ for the TAS Racing team.
“It’s brilliant to win a North West, it’s something special, and when I won my first one the feeling was unbelievable, so it’s good for the TAS team to have two on the podium,” he said.
“It’s been a good day so far, apart from the weather!”
Crumlin’s Stephen Thompson crossed the line in fifth on his T&R Motorsport Suzuki, half-a-minute behind the top trio, with Richard Britton a further second back as he completed the top six on his Suzuki.
Farquhar won the opening Supersport race and also took the chequered flag in first position in the second 600 outing, although he was later disqualified from the race two result having been deemed to have passed Ian Lougher – winner of the 125cc race – under a yellow flag as they battled for victory.
It later transpired that Farquhar had actually passed Lougher under a red and yellow oil flag, and he was eventually reinstated as the winner - albeit after a long wait until November before he was confirmed as the winner.
Michael Rutter won the opening Superbike race on the Renegade Ducati, setting a new lap record of 121.34mph to take the spoils from Archibald and Honda Racing’s Steve Plater.
The feature NW200 Superbike race was cancelled as the heavens opened on the warm-up lap, while the organisers were also running out of time to stage the race before the roads were due to open at 6.30pm.
Sadly, shortly after the North West 200, English star Jefferies was tragically killed during practice for the Isle of Man TT at Crosby.
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