New Mar-Train Racing signing Alastair Seeley is itching to begin his quest to retain the British Supersport crown for the Northern Ireland team at the Easter British Superbike meeting at Brands Hatch.
Seeley pushed Scottish rider Stuart Easton all the way in another sizzling title duel in 2013, narrowly losing out on the championship spoils in a nail-biting final race at the Kent track.
The 34-year-old has taken over from Easton in Tim Martin’s team and will be Mar-Train’s sole representative on the ultra-rapid Yamaha R6 as he launches his bid to win the British title for a second time this weekend.
Seeley topped the times during the official test at Snetterton and has made a smooth transition to the little Yamaha after a season on the Gearlink Kawasaki ZX-6R.
It’s a formidable combination that marks the 10-time North West 200 winner out as the favourite to secure the championship once more. Seeley, though, has typically done his homework and expects Smiths Triumph riders Billy McConnell and Graeme Gowland in particular to present a tough challenge.
“I see the Smiths Triumph guys as probably the main challengers because their bike was brand new last year and they were developing it,” he told the News Letter.
“They’ve got a season under their belts now and Billy McConnell is with them again and he came on strong towards the end of the year last season.
“Graeme Gowland has obviously joined the team and could gel with the bike. Looking at the World Supersport round at Phillip Island he finished seventh, which isn’t to be sniffed at - it’s a really good result. He’s got a strong pedigree and he’s won motocross championships in his youth,” Seeley added.
“But I enjoy the Supersport bike and I’ve a good team behind me. The Yamaha is a proven package and it has improved again this year and going by pre-season testing and the lap times I was doing, I don’t see any reason why we can’t be running at the front.”
Fellow Carrick man Glenn Irwin may have been creating some mischief recently when he suggested Seeley’s best days could be behind him, but such innuendo is water off a duck’s back as far as the Mar-Train protagonist is concerned and his response was swift and to the point.
“Glenn might get involved in a couple of races but not in the championship throughout because he crashes too much,” he said.
“Once the lights go out then the cheap talk stops; my CV speaks for itself. The likes of Glenn who is talking about doing this and doing that would need to start and put it into practice: there’s not much point in talking a good race, you’ve got to get out there and do it.
“Whether mind games are involved or whatever I’m not sure, or maybe it’s just a bit of immaturity,” Seeley added.
“I have a job to do and I’m focused only on myself. The onus is on me to do well for Mar-Train because I’m the only rider in the team, so it’s me against the rest of them. It’s better like that because it drives me on.”
The four-day season-opener at the Brands Hatch Indy circuit commences on Friday with testing and free practice. The British Supersport Sprint race takes place on Sunday at 5.15pm.
On Easter Monday, the BSB races are scheduled for 1.30pm and 4.30pm, with the second Supersport event at 3.40pm. Live coverage is on British Eurosport.