Richard Cooper, the leading newcomer at the fonaCAB and Nicholl Oils North West 200 in 2019, will return to the north coast event on May 8-14 aboard an impressive line-up of machinery.
Cooper, who finished an impressive second in the CP Hire Superstock race on his first appearance at the 8.9 mile Triangle circuit three years ago, will compete in this year’s Superstock and Superbike classes on a pair of Buildbase Suzukis.
The 39 year old will also make his debut on a Supertwin machine on a JMcC Roofing Kawasaki. The Ryan Farquhar-prepared ER6 was the machine Jeremy McWilliams had initially been posted to ride before his recent defection to the IFS Racing/Bayview Paton.
“I have missed nearly two years of British championship racing following the compound fracture to my right leg.” Cooper explained after suffering the career threatening injury in a BSB crash at Donington Park during 2020.
“It was a nasty injury but there has not been a North West 200 since 2019 and I’ve good bikes in every class this year so I have to think that I am capable of matching what I did in 2019 and possibly fighting for race wins this year.”
The double British Superstock champion and BSB race winner hasn’t returned to British championship racing this year, competing instead in local championships at Darley Moor, Mallory Park and Silverstone on a variety of machinery as he battles his way back to full fitness.
“I am riding a lot and enjoying the racing.” the Nottingham native says.
“I am not committed to riding any particular machinery and that means I can freelance so to speak. I’m enjoying that freedom.”
It is a freedom that has also allowed him to seize the opportunity of making his Supertwin debut at the North West. Cooper had his first ride on the JMcC Roofing Kawasaki at Kirkistown’s USBK meeting on Easter Monday.
“I knew that unless I was on a bike that was built by someone like Ryan Farquhar it would be difficult to be competitive so I didn’t bother with the class before.” Cooper explained.
“When Jeremy McWilliams chose to ride the Paton it opened the door for me and it didn’t take me too long to make my decision!”
Despite it being his first outing at both the Co. Down circuit and on the smaller capacity machine, Cooper only lost out by 0.9 second to Supertwin expert, Adam McLean, in the opening race at Kirkistown.
“I had wanted to come over and have a test session on the bike but it was straight into a race and I had to learn the bike and the track in 12 minutes.” Cooper smiled.
He was frustrated that a small mechanical issue forced him to retire at the start of the second race, preventing him from getting more track time on the twin.
“We had made changes from the first race which I think would have worked but it was still a valuable trip.” he said.
“I would love another opportunity to come over and test it again before the North West but I can’t see it being possible.”