Stars out in force for North West 200 launch

Alastair Seeley (Tyco BMW) leads Glenn Irwin (PBM Ducati) in the NW200 Superbike race in 2017.
Alastair Seeley (Tyco BMW) leads Glenn Irwin (PBM Ducati) in the NW200 Superbike race in 2017.

Glenn Irwin and Alastair Seeley will be among the special guests at the official launch of the Vauxhall International North West 200 in Coleraine on Wednesday evening.

With less than two months until the opening practice session roars into life on the North Coast on Tuesday, May 15, the countdown has begun in earnest to the first big international road race of 2018.

Carrickfergus men Irwin and Seeley served up one of the most memorable races in recent times at the North West as they became locked in a gripping duel around the famous old 8.9-mile Triangle course last year, with Yorkshireman Ian Hutchinson and Michael Dunlop in hot pursuit.

On a heart-stopping final lap, Seeley narrowly averted disaster when he drifted wide on the grass verge on the 200mph blast to Coleraine.

However, the all-time record-holder - who extended his haul of wins to 21 last year following a four-timer - composed himself and hit back to push Irwin all the way.

Seeley retook the lead in Portrush but Irwin gained terrific driver over Black Hill and nosed ahead once more on the PBM Ducati, holding his nerve on the brakes into the Juniper Hill chicane and closing out a dream victory in the showpiece Superbike race over his Tyco BMW rival.

At the annual Cornmarket Irish Motorcyclist of the Year awards in Belfast in January, both riders promised more of the same as they took to the stage after the showdown was named as the ‘Race of the Year’.

“It was an awesome race and it meant so much to win it,” said Irwin.

“As well as myself and Alastair, Ian Hutchinson also made it a great race and he deserves credit too.

“We’re ready to do it again and hopefully we can put on another show for the fans.”

Joining Irwin and Seeley this evening at the NW200 ‘Meet the Stars’ event are top names including Honda Racing’s Ian Hutchinson and Lee Johnston, Michael Rutter, James Hillier, Dean Harrison, William Dunlop and newcomer Davy Todd.

Doors open to the public for the ticket-only event at 7pm.