Lisburn’s Carl Phillips has been putting in the hard graft as he prepares to make his road racing debut at the fonaCAB International North West 200 in association with Nicholl Oils.
The Lisburn rider has contemplated competing at the famous event in the past but Phillips feels the time is right this year, with the 25-year-old having no British championship commitments.
After a disappointing debut in the British Superbike Championship in 2018 with the Gearlink Kawasaki team, Phillips took some time out from the sport before making his comeback at the Sunflower Trophy meeting in October for Jason McCaw’s team.
He later agreed to contest the Ulster Superbike Championship this year and Phillips has made an emphatic start, winning all six races held so for on the J.McC Roofing Kawasaki, including victories in the prestigious Enkalon Trophy and King of Kirkistown events over Easter.
Phillips also took up the opportunity to ride the ILR/Mark Coverdale Paton at the North West 200 and made a successful debut on the Italian machine at the opening round of the Ulster Superbike Championship at Bishopscourt in March, winning both Supertwin races.
He was raving over the performance of the nimble Paton and Phillips has been counting down the days until he ventures out onto the 8.9-mile Triangle course in tomorrow morning’s newcomers practice session.
“I’ve got the right bike for the job and I’ve been up around the course most mornings for the past three weeks doing laps in the car from 6am with my dad,” said Phillips, whose father Joe raced at the North West, making his last appearance in 2012.
“I’ve been putting a lot of work into it and my dad raced at the North West before, so he’s been giving me some advice.
“Last Sunday all the bales were out and it was starting to feel a lot more real, but I can’t wait and I just need to take my time and learn as much as I can during practice,” added Phillips.
“I think I’ll probably be using Thursday’s first Supertwin race as a bit of test really ahead of the main race on Saturday. That’s the big one and I don’t think I’ll be too far away.”
Phillips had been hoping to secure a Supersport ride to give him the benefit of more time to build up his experience of the course in practice.
However, the Paton will be his sole ride and Phillips says he will just get on with the job in hand.
“I’ve a good team around me with good lads who are looking after me,” he said.
“It’s been going great in the Ulster Superbike Championship and I feel in the best form I’ve been in since 2017 probably.
“My confidence is good but it won’t be easy with the lack of track time because I’ve only one bike. I’ll have five laps of newcomers practice and then one qualifying session on Tuesday and Thursday and straight into Thursday’s race.
“It would’ve been ideal to have had a 600 but we’ll do our best and hopefully get some decent results.”
A strong field in the Supertwin class includes KMR Kawasaki riders Derek McGee, Jeremy McWilliams and Michael Rutter, Glenn Irwin (KTS Kawasaki), John McGuinness on the new Norton Superlight, Stefano Bonetti (Paton), Jamie Coward (KTS Kawasaki) and Michael Sweeney (Kiely Heating Kawasaki).