Mar-Train Racing’s Alastair Seeley dominated the opening races at the Vauxhall International North West 200 to wrap up a sublime double on the north coast.
Thousands of fans basked in glorious sunshine as the world’s best road racers went head-to-head around the 8.9-mile circuit and it was Carrick man Seeley who proved he’s still the man to beat as he secured a double in the Supersport and Superstock classes.
The 34-year-old has now claimed 12 victories to close the deficit to Michael Rutter and Joey Dunlop, who have won 13 times at the event, and Robert Dunlop - still the all-time record holder with 15 wins.
Against the odds, Seeley battled back from the rear of the first group in the Supersport race after losing ground on lap one when Lee Johnston slid off unhurt at York corner.
He smashed the lap record with a flying lap on the Mar-Train Yamaha R6 at 116.606mph as he reeled in the leading group, eventually edging a final lap duel with Tyco Suzuki’s Guy Martin to secure his first win on the night.
Milwaukee Yamaha’s Josh Brookes finished third followed by William Dunlop (Tyco Suzuki) Keith Amor on the Rig Deluge Honda and Gary Johnson on the Smiths Triumph. Michael Dunlop was a retirement on his MD Racing Honda.
Seeley seemed to be in control in the Superstock race but was reeled in by Michael Rutter on the Bathams BMW and Michael Dunlop on his MD Racing machine.
Rutter moved into the lead on the penultimate lap before Dunlop hit the front for the first time as the race reached a climax on the final lap.
However, Seeley refused to give in and passed Rutter at Metropole before putting a move on Dunlop at Black Hill to complete a sizzling brace for the Saintfield-based team.
Rutter also passed Dunlop to grab the runner-up spot, with the dejected Ballymoney man having to settle for third.
Martin Jessopp on the Riders Motorcycles BMW finished fourth from Austrian rider Horst Saiger, who set a new lap record in the class on his Kawasaki at 121.214mph. Simon Andrews completed the top six on the Ice Valley BMW.
Fermanagh’s Lee Johnston made up for the disappointment of his crash in the Supersport event as he won a thrilling Supertwin race from Ivan Lintin, making a winning move on the final lap.
Keith Amor had also been in contention for victory but dropped out on the last lap. Amor, though, set a new lap record for the class at 108.644mph.
James Cowton clinched the last place on the rostrum followed by Quattro Plant Kawasaki’s James Hillier, Jamie Hamilton on Stewart Smith’s Kawasaki and Ryan Farquhar, who was the first of the KMR Kawasaki riders across the line.