Bruce Anstey is gunning for his 11th win at the Vauxhall International North West 200 next week after missing out on a top-three finish in 2016.
It was the first time the Flying Kiwi never managed a podium at the event since he won the Superstock race on the north coast during a sensational debut in 2002.
“This will be my 15th year at the North West,” said Anstey, who will ride his 2016-spec Fireblade Superbike plus the new Honda SP2 in the Superstock class and a CBR600RR Honda.
Anstey will, however, race the exotic MotoGP-based RC213V-S at the TT.
“I think the old Fireblade will still be fast enough to win after it went through the speed trap at over 209mph last year. I want to win but it is getting harder every year with all the BSB guys coming over.”
His failure to clinch a podium at the seaside meeting last year ended his incredible record of securing successive top-three finishes at the North West, the TT and the Ulster Grand Prix for 13 seasons.
Anstey admits he was disappointed, especially as he was holding second place in the Superbike race before an uncharacteristic crash at Church Corner.
“Yeah, I lost my podium run at last year’s North West but I kept it going at the TT and Ulster, so I would like to get it back on track at the North West,” he said.
“I was lying second in the Superbike race last year when I fell off at Church.”
Assessing his prospects, the popular New Zealander is confident he will be right in the frame once again but he admits the level of competition is higher than ever.
“I think the racing will be really close this year. Michael Dunlop will be in there no matter what, ‘Hutchy’ is riding really well and Lee Johnston could get in my way too!”
British Superbike talent Glenn Irwin is the name on everyone’s lips at present as the Carrick man prepares to make his Superbike bow at the North West on the PBM Be Wiser Ducati.
“He will be quick for sure,” Anstey said. “But it will be interesting to see if the bike stands the stress on the engine of going flat-out for so long on the straights.
“It will be harder for Alastair [Seeley] to win but I think he still wants to win more at the North West 200 more than anyone else.”
Practice gets underway next Tuesday, with roads closing at 9.15am.