The former MotoGP star delivered a dream podium for John Burrows’ Dungannon team on the Yamaha R6, despite only riding the machine during a test day at Kirkistown in Co Down last Sunday prior to Tuesday’s opening practice on the north coast.
McWilliams, who recently celebrated his 58th birthday, went into this year’s North West 200 as a contender for a fourth victory in the Supertwin class on the IFS/Bayview Hotel Paton, but few thought the Glengormley man would be sharing the rostrum with Supersport race winner Alastair Seeley and runner-up Davey Todd after the first Supersport race.
In wet and challenging conditions around the 8.9-mile course, McWilliams showed that he was more than willing to get stuck in and fight with his younger rivals for the top three.
He edged out Milenco Padgett’s Honda rider Todd with a strong move on the brakes at York corner on the last lap to move into second place, but McWilliams eventually finished third in what must be a contender for the ride of the night.
“That feels like a win,” said McWilliams, who was brought into the team as a replacement for Mike Browne after the Cork racer broke both ankles in a crash at the Cookstown 100 last month.
“It’s just fantastic to be here on the podium and a big thanks to John Burrows for the chance to ride his bike.
“I’m over the moon with that and I really enjoyed it out there. Hopefully there’s more to come.”
Former racer turned team boss Burrows was overjoyed as he celebrated his team’s first NW200 podium since Ballyclare’s Jamie Hamilton bagged two thirds in the Supertwin races at the event in 2015.
“It’s unbelievable and I wasn’t really nervous watching those last few laps because I knew Jeremy is a sensible and very experienced rider,” said Burrows.
“It’s unreal to see this bike on the podium and massive thanks to Jeremy for pulling out the result for us.
“I knew Jeremy wouldn’t be here to make up the numbers and he went well in practice, but to get a podium is just unbelievable and it’s fantastic for the whole team.”