William Dunlop is seeking payback against old foe Alastair Seeley in the Supersport class at this year’s Vauxhall North West 200.
The 27-year-old won the opening 600cc race at the event in 2012, outgunning former British Supersport champion Seeley as the pint-sized Carrick rider’s much-hyped bid for an unprecedented Triangle five-timer ended in spectacular collapse.
Seeley lost the first Superbike race to Honda TT Legends rider John McGuinness after Dunlop’s Supersport victory on Wilson Craig’s Honda, leaving the event favourite with no wins from the first two races.
He then lost the Superstock race to Michael Rutter and, rocked by three defeats in succession, was desperate to make amends in Supersport race two.
Seeley seized the lead on the final lap in controversial circumstances after diving underneath Dunlop at Church corner and held on for his first success of the day.
Normally a docile character, Dunlop refused to shake hands with Seeley afterwards and later said he felt the race-winning move had been unsafe.
Seeley – who switches back to the British Supersport Championship this year on new machinery with the Gearlink Kawasaki team after parting company from Tyco Suzuki – begged to differ.
As recently as last month, he claimed Dunlop had ‘made too much of it’ and added fuel to their rivalry by adding: ‘I wanted that race and my name’s on the trophy, not his. I think when he called it a dirty pass everyone jumped on the bandwagon, but once everyone had looked at the footage there was no more said about it.’
Seeley remains the man to beat at the North West, where he won three times in total last year, including the Superstock race on the Thursday night of race week plus Saturday’s feature Superbike event.
The pair will meet on track for the first time this season in the opening British Supersport round at Brands Hatch on April 6 after Dunlop inked a deal with Shaun Muir’s Milwaukee Yamaha team for the international road races and the first three BSS rounds.
Back on his favoured Yamaha R6, Dunlop has his sights set on a Supersport double over Seeley at the North West.
“Although it is not out of the question that I can win on the big bike I really want to win both the 600cc races this year,” Dunlop said.
“I got one of them last year and I want to go one better in 2013.”
The Ballymoney man has renewed his former association with CD Racing in a joint deal with Milwaukee Yamaha to ride a trick R6 at the international roads meetings plus selected national events.
He is due to participate in a Dunlop tyre test at Albacete in Spain in March, when he will have the opportunity to ride his new Milwaukee Yamaha YZF-R1 Superbike for the first time alongside teammate Conor Cummins.
“That will be the first time that I get to ride the new bikes and it is really important to put in the miles testing because there is so much new stuff to get used to,” he said.
“The R1 will have a load of electronic gadgets on board that I have never used on the roads before. There is traction control, launch control and the facility to alter the engine braking characteristics for instance.
“All of that will require some fine tuning before we start to race.”
William will also sport a new helmet design this year after switching to American specialists Bell.
Last month, his younger brother Michael confirmed a deal with Shoei, meaning both Dunlop brothers have chosen to leave Arai – a brand synonymous with the family tradition of road racing success.