Yeovil’s Martin Jessopp feels the time has come to step up to the plate and challenge for the top step at this year’s Vauxhall International North West 200.
Jessopp made his name at the Triangle road race after setting a new outright speed record at the event of a staggering 208mph in 2012 on the ultra-fast run to Coleraine.
The 28-year-old is making his seventh appearance at the famous north coast meeting in May and believes he has served his apprenticeship as the English challenger targets the rostrum this spring.
Jessopp, twice a runner-up at the Macau Grand Prix in 2011 and 2012, will ride a specially-built BMW S1000RR HP4 Superbike under the Riders Motorcycles banner, which utilises MotoGP technology and BMW’s factory electronics system.
The former World Supersport rider will also rely on BMW power in the Superstock races at the event, which gets under way with opening practice on Tuesday, May 13 and runs until Saturday, May 17.
“We struggled a bit in BSB with the new bike last year so we went away and looked at it over the winter,” said Jessopp, who will make his Isle of Man TT bow in June and is also keen on competing at the Metzeler Ulster Grand Prix at Dundrod for the first time in August.
“You need a really fast and stable bike for road circuits like the North West. We know the engine is fast because we were the fastest through the speed trap at Macau last year, so most of the development has focused on the chassis and we will have a bike that is designed to perform better on the roads.
“I will be going to the TT to learn my way around this year but I am coming to the North West to target podiums and race wins. The North West is a huge event that stands on its own nowadays and I’m really looking forward to getting back there.
“I only really started road racing because I was Stuart Easton’s team-mate and he was going to the North West, so I thought I would pop over and have a look. But now I’m looking for some good results on the roads.”
Last year, Jessopp suffered an engine blow-up on his BMW Superbike in practice on his first flying lap during Tuesday practice and never had the opportunity to assess the potential of the German machine after rain on the Thursday and Saturday put a dampener on the event.
“I was right in front of Michael Dunlop when it let go and he got sprayed with oil,” he recalled. “Then it rained for the Thursday session so to be honest I didn’t really get to see how the BMWs would have performed there last year.”
The Riders Motorcycle outfit is owned by Martin’s father, Phil, who provided an insight into the development work carried out on the BMW Superbike Jessopp will ride on the roads in 2014.
“We have done an awful lot of development work on the BMWs since last year and we have built different bikes for the roads and BSB,” he explained.
“We have used MotoGP technology in the back end of the new HP4 to develop a new swinging arm and we have also designed new yokes and forks for the front end to help make the bike more stable.”
NW200 Event Director, Mervyn Whyte, MBE, added: “The RidersMotorcycle.com team are a really professional squad and by building a ‘roads special’ BMW superbike they are making it very clear that they mean business on the North coast come May.”