Alastair Seeley, the most successful rider at the fonaCAB and Nicholl Oils North West 200, has added a new machine to his arsenal for this year’s race week on May 7-13.
The 27 times race winner will line up on a V2 Ducati in the Strain Engineering and Tides Restaurant Supersport races after a collaboration between Moto Rapido- who run Ducati machinery in the British Superbike and Supersportchampionships- and Philip and Hector Neill’s TAS Racing team. The Italian machine will appear inPowertoolmate livery with Milwaukee support.
The 955cc Italian machine joins the SynetiqSuperstock-spec and Milwaukee Superbike M1000RRs in Seeley’s garage at the north coast event.
“Ian Hutchinson was due to ride the Ducati this year but after he suffered some health issues it made sense for me to ride it.” Seeley explained.
“I haven’t ridden the bike yet but hopefully it will put a smile on my face when I do. The Ducati has been impressive in the British and World Supersport series this year and a Ducati also won at Daytona.”
The 43 year old, who raced the PBM V4RR superbike Ducati to a fifth place finish in the 2019 NW200 Anchor Bar Superbike race, is due tothrow his leg over the Italian middleweight machine for the first time in a two day test at Kirkistown next week.
“It will be a challenge as the team and myself try to get to grips with the Ducati but I am looking forward to it.” Seeley said.
“The last Ducati I tried at the North West didn’t work out too well so it would be nice if it did work this time.”
The Supersport class has been a successful stomping ground for the diminutive Carrickfergus racer who has enjoyed 13 victories in the class at the north coast event, including a win on wet roadsin the opening 600cc encounter last year. He went on to claim two more victories in the Turkington and CP Hire Superstock races at the meeting.
“I didn’t make the podium at the NW200 in 2019but winning three races with IFS Yamaha last year showed that was a blip.” Seeley smiled.
“Those results contributed to my getting top tier machinery this year, including a British Superstock ride. I have a great package over all the classesnow, giving me a better chance to go for wins.”
Having returned to the 2023 British Superstock series with the Synetiq BMW team, Seeley willarrive on the north coast with outings at Silverstone and Oulton Park under his belt.
“I am learning all the time as we ride the BMW which is a completely different bike to the R1 Yamaha I rode last year.” he said.
“We aren’t lacking speed and I just need to make sure that I qualify well and get away with the front pack so I can make a challenge. Although it is three years since I was in the British championship paddock, I don’t feel at sea. It is nice to be back.”
Although Seeley is delighted to be back in the British championship fray, the NW200 remains his major priority. His phenomenal success at the event began with his first race win in 2008 and hefeels he still has unfinished business in the premier Superbike class at Portrush.
“Those are the races with the most prestige, the last race of the day and the one that everyone remembers.” Seeley said, listing his Carrickfergus neighbour, Glenn Irwin, as the man to beat.
“Glenn has won the last six NW200 Superbike races and is doing a brilliant job. He wants to continue his winning streak so it is up to the rest of us to qualify well and use some of the mentality he has to try and beat him.”
He is confident he has the tools to succeed in the premier class this season.
“I tested the Milwaukee Superbike-spec BMW at Kirkistown last week and I felt comfortable.” he said.
“It felt superior to the IFS Yamaha I rode last yearand I gelled with the bike. I train hard and I still have the motivation. The pieces of the jigsaw puzzle have come together with good bikes and a good team that can deliver good results.”
Seeley knows winning races will not come easy as the North West once again plays host to the world’s strongest line-up of road racing talent.
“It is a stacked field full of big hitters.” he says.
“The competition will be fierce in all the classes,as it is every year, against the likes of Lee Johnston, Davey Todd, Michael Dunlop, James Hillier, Dean Harrison, Conor Cummins, Michael Rutter and John McGuinness.”
“Glenn Irwin will be there and Peter Hickman will want to win his first North West Superbike race. But Josh Brookes could be a dark horse because he seems to have gelled with the FHO Racing BMW. Everyone will be up to speed.”
Although he knows he is a man with a target on his back at the North West, Seeley says he stilltries to enjoy the event each year.
“I might have won a lot of NW200 races but I try to keep it real.” he smiles.
“I rock up in the motorhome and chill out with the family each year. We eat well and go for ice cream but when I walk through that tunnel and on to the grid, that is the start of business time for me, the moment when the switch is flicked.”