Alastair Seeley led the field in the 2012 North West 200, the local Irishman taking three wins and six podiums - pushing his career win tally to eight.
Northern Ireland’s Alastair Seeley tallied a breakout performance before his countryman at the 2012 North West 200. The Tyco Suzuki pilot managed six podiums, and three victories – one apiece in the Superstock, Supersport and Superbike classes. The now eight-time NW200 winner shared victories with fellow Irishmen Ryan Farquhar and William Dunlop, as well as English road course vets John McGuinness and Michael Rutter.
This year’s North West featured a new seven-race program format. Long gone are the 250 and 125 classes, replaced by a second Superstock race and the new Supertwins category. The racing action is now broken up into two days, with the first Superstock and lone Supertwins contest on Thursday and the five remaining races – including the namesake North West 200 Superbike finale – held on Saturday.
Unlike most of the big name road course specialists, who have their sights set on the Isle of Man, the North West is Seeley’s only appearance on the International road courses. And the local Northerner from Carrickfergus made the most of his visit, his crowning achievement being victory in the namesake North West 200 Superbike race, where he bested Rutter and McGuinness on the 8.9-mile road circuit.
As amazing as Seeley’s 2012 NW200 tally was, it could have been even grander with some better luck. The 32-year-old actually ended two of his runner-up performances while leading the races: The first incidence came when Supersport 1 was race red flagged after he took the lead on the final lap; the second saw Seeley win a terrific fight for the second Superstock checkers only to lose the top podium spot on the corrected timing to Rutter, who started on the second wave. Seeley’s “worst” performance, a second-place Superbike finish, can be credited to a missed shift, with Seeley dropping from the front and unable to make up the time lost on McGuinness.
William Dunlop delivered the Wilson Craig team its first International road race victory in the first Supersport race.
Michael Rutter (bottom) scored career NW200 win number 13 in the second Superstock race. The Blade now tied with Joey Dunlop on the all-time win list.
Seeley’s success at his home confines were complemented by fellow Irishmen Farquhar and Dunlop. For Farquhar, victory in the Supertwins race was bolstered by a full podium sweep of his very own KMR Kawasaki team thanks to performances from his veteran teammates - 48-year-old Jeremy McWilliams and 40-year-old Rutter.
Dunlop’s victory in the first Supersport race netted the Wilson Craig team its first-ever win at the North West. Son of the winningest rider at the North West, 15-time winner Robert Dunlop (who perished during the 2008 event), William took the checkers in the lucky turn of events mentioned above. The lead rider heading into the final lap, Dunlop lost the front position to Seeley, but the race was red flagged following the crash of Seeley’s Tyco Suzuki teammate (and former Wilson Craig rider) Guy Martin – the English rider once again escaping serious injury despite a horrific looking get-off. Dunlop went on to finish runner-up in the second Supersport contest.
The only riders to break up the native riders’ winning streak are familiar NW200 competitors and no strangers to the top step of the rostrum, English riders McGuinness and Rutter. The 17-time IOM TT winning McGuinness claimed win number six at the North West. The King of the Mountain’s victory in the Superbike 1 comes after a one-year absence from the Irish race.
As for The Blade, Rutter continues his winning ways at the North West. Victory in the second Superstock is notable for two reasons: First, the English rider ties none other than the King of the Roads himself, Joey Dunlop, on the career NW200 tallies with a lucky 13; second, Rutter took the win from the second wave of starters. A byproduct of the unpredictable weather, several riders didn’t get in good qualifying runs leading to a scattered starting grid. As such the second Superstock race featured a thrilling dash to the checkers between Seeley, Farquhar, McGuinness and James Hillier, but it was Rutter who poached the win on the corrected timesheet from wave number two.
The North West 200 can be a good barometer of where the riders stand heading into the TT, and a couple of riders bear special mention for their NW results. Steadily improving his results on the international road courses Hillier marked his first career NW200 podium with a third-place finish in the second Superstock race – leading the opening lap of the six-lap sprint. The Bournemouth Pr1mo Kawasaki rider looks primed for more success at the TT.
Cameron Donald, always a threat at the TT, managed a pair of podiums for the Wilson Craig squad – a third-place finish in the first Superstock and Superbike races. The Australian just finished off the steps in the Supersport ranks too, with a fourth-place in both races.
Guy Martin's (top) NW200 ended
with a Supersport 1 crash. As for
Ian Hutchison, the English rider
returns from another leg fracture.
As for Guy Martin, his day ended with the Supersport Race 1 red flag crash. The mutton-chopped Tyco Suzuki rider remains winless at the North West in his career, with bumps and bruises the official injury report from the Tyco team. Martin does promise, however, that “I’ll be grand for the TT.”
The third Tyco rider, Conor Cummins, also had a disappointing North West, with a get off in the in the second Superbike race. The usual podium threat was only able to muster a best of seventh-place in the first Superbike race with his new Suzuki team. Like his colleague Martin, the Manx rider promises the bumps and bruises from his NW200 crash won’t hinder his IOM campaign.
Michael Dunlop couldn’t match elder brother William’s two-podium result this year. The 24-year-old managed five top-10 results, with three different manufacturers. His best was a fifth-place finish in the North West 200 finale, also posting a pair of sixth-place results aboard his Suzuki Supersport.
The hero of the 2010 IOM TT, Ian Hutchinson, continues to struggle back from injury. The Swan Yamaha rider, a two-time winner at the North West, returns from yet another leg fracture. The Englishman only managed two top-10, his best coming at the end with a seventh-place finish in the second Superbike race.
The road racing paddock now head east to the Isle of Man for the 2012 TT races. Practice begins May 26, with the race week beginning on Saturday, June 2 with the opening Superbike and Sidecar TT races. The TT racing will conclude on Friday, June 8 with the Senior TT finale.