Retro Rewind: Alastair Seeley ends 13-year Superbike hoodoo at North West 200
Alastair Seeley ended a 13-year wait for an Ulster winner in the blue riband Superbike class at the North West 200 with a famous victory in 2010.
The Relentless TAS Suzuki rider claimed the spoils in the headline race 11 years ago as he became the first rider from Northern Ireland since Phillip McCallen in 1997 to savour success in the premier class around the ‘Triangle’ course.
Ireland’s largest outdoor sporting event should have been taking place on the North Coast this week, but sadly the Covid-19 pandemic forced the organisers to cancel the historic race for a second successive year.
In the latest of our special NW200 features this week, we remember Carrickfergus man Seeley’s breakthrough Superbike triumph, when the reigning British Superstock champion had to forge his way through from the third row of the grid after qualifying ninth.
His task was made all the more difficult when the race distance was reduced from six laps to four following a delay, when a spectator fell from a cliff on the Coast Road and required emergency treatment.
When the race got under way, Seeley made a solid start and had scythed his way through the pack to move into second position behind Scotsman Stuart Easton on lap two, with HM Plant Honda rider John McGuinness also right in the mix.
Seeley then made his move on the brakes into Juniper chicane and led the race until the fourth and final lap, when Easton re-took the lead into Metropole in Portrush on his Swan Honda.
Seeley, though, hit back immediately, diving underneath Easton at Church Corner and maintaining a slight gap on the final run along the Coast Road to hold on for a landmark win.
His margin of victory over Easton at the line was 1.1 seconds, with McGuinness only a further tenth of a second back in third.
Seeley, who set a new lap record of 121.875mph on lap three, said: “Stuart pushed me all the way and I thought I had maybe broke him, but he came back at me going into Metropole on the brakes so I thought I better hit straight back because it was the last lap and I didn’t want to fall behind.
“I was quite strong from Metropole and along the Coast Road, so I made the pass and tried to ride a defensive line and managed to hold on for a big win, not just for myself, but for my team,” added Seeley, who also won the opening Supersport race from Ian Hutchinson and Michael Dunlop.
“When it was cut to four laps I knew I had to get a good start and get away with the leaders, and that’s what I did.
“I pushed through and tried to make a break, but it’s very hard around here.”
Runner-up Easton – who lit up practice week with a 204mph top-speed record on the run to Coleraine – felt he should have won the race on the Swan Honda.
“I had quite a tough week in practice but all credit to the guys in the team because that bike should have won the race today – it was so fast.
“It was pretty clear to see that, but I didn’t have it in me to do it at this minute in time.
“I’m sure after that race I’ll be back.”
Easton felt he may have erred a little on the side of caution as he made his first return to the event in three years.
“I just felt as though I was a bit cautious because this is a dangerous old place,” he continued.
“Though the real road racing stuff like Black Hill and Station Corner is where I’m at my weakest because I just don’t have the experience, but I’m happy with after that and I can’t complain with second.”
HM Plant Honda’s McGuinness, winner of the first Superbike race, said Seeley’s victory was ‘good for the sport’.
“There hasn’t been a local Superbike winner here for many years so it’s good for the sport.
“I was feeling a bit of pressure after we lost Steve (Plater) but the boys just said go out and enjoy yourself and see where you finish.”
McGuinness’s team-mate and race favourite Steve Plater was ruled out of the event following a crash at Quarry Hill in final qualifying. Plater, who had qualified on pole, announced his retirement from road racing in 2011.
McGuinness held off Manxman Conor Cummins (McAdoo Kawasaki) to win the first Superbike race with Seeley third.
Also in 2010, Keith Amor won the Superstock race on the new BMW S1000RR, while Paul Robinson triumphed in the 125cc race – 30 years after his father Mervyn was killed in a crash at the event.
Ian Hutchinson won the second Supersport race on the Padgett’s Honda from Amor and Bruce Anstey (Relentless TAS Suzuki), with Seeley fourth.