Alastair Seeley bounced back from the disappointment of a retirement in the Supersport race to win his 18th race at the Vauxhall International North West 200 in dominant style.
Seeley hit a false neutral on the Tyco BMW at Ballysally on lap two as he led the race and lost time, dropping back to third behind Michael Rutter (Bathams BMW) and Dean Harrison on the Silicone Engineering Kawasaki.
However, pole man Seeley was on a mission and quickly reeled in the leaders, passing Harrison to take second place before the end of the lap as he trailed Rutter by only 0.6 seconds.
On lap three, Seeley had pushed his nose to the front by the time they reached Coleraine, with Rutter slipping backwards to fourth behind Harrison and Johnston.
Seeley was beginning to open a cushion but Rutter was missing at Metropole in Portrush. It later transpired that the 13-time winner had retired at Mather’s chicane.
With clear road ahead of him, Carrick man Seeley shattered Ian Hutchinson’s 2016 lap record on his fourth lap with a new speed of 122.898mph to open a lead of almost six seconds over Johnston and Harrison, who were locked in battle throughout. In turn, they were clear of Jessopp and Hutchinson, who were embroiled in a tussle for fourth.
Seeley was in full control of the race and closed out the final two laps to win by a huge 12.6 seconds from Johnston, who narrowly denied his good friend Harrison for the runner-up spot.
It was Seeley’s sixth victory in the Superstock class and his first on a BMW following previous wins on Suzuki (2), Kawasaki (2) and Yamaha (1) machinery. It was also Moneymore team TAS Racing’s 25th victory at the North West 200.
Hutchinson squeezed past Jessopp to take fourth o the second of the Tyco BMW machines, with James Hillier in sixth on the JG Speedfit Kawasaki.
Derek Sheils impressed on John Burrows’ Cookstown B.E. Racing Suzuki in seventh with William Dunlop coming home in a lonely eighth on the Temple Golf Club Yamaha.
Michael Dunlop was an early retirement on the Bennetts Suzuki.