Can Alastair Seeley become the most successful rider of all-time at the Vauxhall International North West 200? That will be question on every road race fan’s mind at this year’s races on the famous north coast circuit.
The man they call the ‘Wee Wizard’ equalled the late Robert Dunlop’s tally of 15 wins on the 8.9 mile Triangle circuit that takes in the towns of Portrush, Portstewart and Coleraine last season. Now he is determined to move ahead and claim the record for himself.
“It would mean a lot to get that 16th win.” the 36 year old says.
“I started out at the North West just having a bit of craic and then the wins started to come and I got offered good machinery. The wins started tallying up and over the last few years they have been coming in twos and threes and that is when they really start adding up.”
Initially, the Carrickfergus man didn’t pay a lot of attention to the record.
“Eventually you take a look and see who has the record and I saw it was Robert on 15.” he explains.
“At one stage I was down on 10 and then we got a couple more and last year we rolled up on 12 and got a hat trick. It is hard to get one win at the North West with all the luck that you need and having to get yourself into the right place to challenge but to get three is unbelievable.”
Now that Seeley is within touching distance of the all-time mark he is determined to get over the line and stamp his own authority on the record books.
“I would like to get the one but it would be nice to get a few more and maybe stretch it a little bit.” he smiles. “Records are always there to be broken and I am sure if I do do it then any mark that I set will be broken in the future by the young cubs. I didn’t start winning at the North West until I was 28 whereas these young guys coming through now are 21 or 22 and if they can get the circuit dialled in quickly they will have a chance of getting a lot of wins.”
Seeley will be on the same superbike-spec, S1000RR BMW he rode last year but in RAF Reserves/Briggs livery rather than the Tyco colours he won on in 2015. Seeley will also ride another RAF/Briggs BMW in superstock trim and a Gear Link Kawasaki in the Supersport events.
“The team have Peter Hickman’s (who rode the RAF Reserves/Briggs bike last year) settings but obviously the difference between him and me, given our different sizes and styles, is like night and day.” Seeley says.
The diminutive Carrick racer has now returned to the BSB series he last raced in in 2011 and has had the two British championship rounds at Silverstone and Oulton to get himself dialled into the new machine.
“Hopefully we will have a good feeling with the bike by then” he explains.
“A lot depends on how the BSB goes. I am back on superbikes and sometimes you make so many changes and you can become a bit lost in it. The electronics play a big part in everything, especially with no traction control now.”
“If it goes well you bring confidence with you to the North West, if it isn’t going so good then you are trying to sort stuff out and that might bring a little more nervousness.”
“It is important to roll up to the NW200 fit and healthy and confident in the bike.” Seeley says.
Renowned for his meticulous preparation, the former British Supersport and Superstock champion will leave no stone unturned in his quest for success.
“It is all about strategy at the North West, getting yourself in the right place at the right time.” he reflects.
“I have been looking at the DVDs from last year and some riders were scrambling to get themselves into position and it wasn’t happening for them. I can see that and learn from it.”
Of his rivals Seeley sees the biggest threat coming from Lee Johnston on the East Coast Construction/Burdens BMW. The Fermanagh man beat Seeley to the chequered flag in last year’s Superstock race at Portrush.
“Going by the form book, yes, he will be the man to beat.” Seeley admits.
“He is on the same BMW he rode last year and he will have all of his data for that. He is doing plenty of testing and he is comfortable with the bikes and his surroundings so it will feel good to him. Lee will be strong.”
“Then there is Ian Hutchinson, the Dunlop brothers, William and Michael, Bruce Anstey, Conor Cummins and Gary Johnson.” Seeley says.
“It wont be easy and if they are up for it they will make my life very hard.”