2017: North West 200 Round-Up

The 2017 Vauxhall International North West 200 saw records broken and extended, new winners and what has been dubbed one of the most exciting races at the event ever.

Practice

Dry and sunny conditions greeted riders for Tuesday and Thursday’s practice sessions and they were able to complete a number of laps in preparation for the racing. Newcomers got the event underway with their practice session on Tuesday morning, giving riders such as Mark Purslow, Joey Thompson, and Neil Kernohan their first taste of the Triangle circuit.

In Tuesday practice Alistair Seeley topped the times in both the Superbike and Supersport classes – the Carrickfergus man aiming to extend his most wins record after surpassing Robert Dunlop’s win tally last year. Martin Jessopp was fastest in the Supertwin class while Michael Rutter led a tight Superstock class. Race organisers and sponsors were left with red faces when the Superstock session had to be red flagged after just a couple of minutes when the course car got stuck on the apex of the chicane at the end of the start finish straight.

On Thursday it was the same men fastest again this time with Seeley topping the Supersport and Superstock times while Rutter went fastest in the Superbike session. Jessopp continued as the fastest Supertwin rider. The Superbike session – the last of the practice sessions – was red flagged following an incident involving John McGuinness. He crashed at Primrose corner and was taken to hospital in Belfast. The Honda team reported that he had a compound fracture to his right lower leg, four broken vertebrae, and three broken back ribs. The team subsequently withdrew Guy Martin from the Superstock and Superbike races as they were unable to investigate the cause of McGuinness’ crash.

Races

Conditions remained dry for Thursday racing and first on the race schedule was the first of two Supersport races. Seeley started from pole and was the man to beat having been fastest in both practice sessions. He failed to complete the first lap, however, pulling into the pits with a bike problem. It was Jessopp from the second row who went on to win after a race long battle with Ian Hutchinson. Both had spells at the front but it was Jessopp who went on to take the victory – his first ever win at the North West 200. James Hillier completed the podium finishers ahead of Dean Harrison and Lee Johnston.

Seeley did not face any problems in the Superstock class as he romped to a 12 second victory over Johnston. He didn’t have it all his own way, however, as Rutter led across the line on the second lap but the Bathams rider unfortunately retired from the race. Seeley and Johnston were joined on the podium by Harrison – his first rostrum result at the event. Hutchinson was fourth with Jessopp coming home in fifth place.

Like waiting for a bus, Jessopp found that after waiting for one North West 200 win that two come along at once. He started from pole position and crossed the line in the lead on every lap. Rutter – a last minute entry to the class on Ryan Farquhar’s KMR bike – was a close second just eight tenths back. Ivan Lintin was third ahead of Dan Cooper and Derek Sheils. Johnston had been considered a contender for the race win but struggled to get away for the warm-up lap and despite a push and getting away, he didn’t make the start. Jessopp also set a new lap record on his way to victory.

The weather was not as kind on Saturday and riders were faced with wet conditions. Up first on the schedule was the second Supersport race.

Riders were given two sighting laps before the race and it eventually got underway in damp conditions. The rain came on during the race and a number of riders raised their hands to get the race stopped at the end of lap 4 however it kept going for the full six. It was Seeley who won, four seconds clear of William and Michael Dunlop. It had been William who led across the line when the conditions deteriorated, but Michael Dunlop suggested after the race that his older brother’s face “didn’t fit the picture” which is why the race wasn’t stopped. Cookstown 100 race winner Adam McLean was an impressive fourth place – just a couple of seconds off a podium – with Hutchinson fifth.

There was a lengthy delay before the next race of the day due to the weather conditions. The Superbikes did get out for a sighting lap but it was red flagged due to oil on the track from Michael Dunlop’s Suzuki. With rain getting heavier it wasn’t until around 3pm in the afternoon when racing resumed. Seeley stormed to a dominant victory over Rutter and Johnston. He was 21 seconds clear by the end of the last lap with Rutter a comfortable seven seconds ahead of Johnston. Irwin was fourth in his first Superbike race appearance at the North West 200 while Peter Hickman finished fifth.

While Seeley extended his win record to 20, Rutter – the next most successful current rider – added another victory to his tally. He took a hard fought win in the Supertwin race after narrowly missing out to Jessopp on Thursday. Rutter led after every lap but could not shake off Cooper who finished just six tenths down. Jessopp finished the race in third place ahead of Michael Sweeney and Marty Lennon. It was a particularly special victory for Rutter as he won for Ryan Farquhar who was involved in a near fatal accident at the event last year. The win was Rutter’s 14th around the Triangle circuit putting him just one win off Robert Dunlop’s 15.

The second Superstock race proved to be yet another victory for Seeley, bringing his win record to 21. The race was red flagged on the fifth lap, leaving Seeley the winner as he crossed the line leading on the previous lap. He very narrowly beat Hutchinson – just two tenths separated the two riders. Rutter joined the pair on the podium with Johnston finishing fourth. The top four were separated by under a second while Hickman was just slightly further back in fifth. Riders were not impressed afterwards that the race had not been red flagged sooner – with a number raising their hands to indicate conditions were too difficult.

The Vauxhall North West 200 race – the feature race of the event – proved to be the most exciting of the day as three riders battled hard for the lead. It was a race long fight between Irwin, Seeley and Hutchinson. Irwin led across the line each time after perfectly timing his move onto the coast road each time. Seeley was able to take advantage through the long slipstreaming sections but Irwin was able to keep with him. Seeley was even onto the grass on the run to University at one stage but he lost nothing as he kept with the front two. Eventually the top three finished just seven tenths apart when Irwin pulled a well timed move on Seeley on the final lap. Hutchinson finished in second with Michael Dunlop fourth. Rutter completed a highly successful North West 200 for him in fifth place. There were huge cheers around the circuit when Irwin crossed the line to win on only his second appearance at the event. He previously raced at the North West 200 in 2015 on a Supersport but he broke down during the race while at the front.

Alistair Seeley’s win record around the North West 200 now stands at 21. Both he and Michael Rutter surpassed Philip McCallen’s podium record of 28. Seeley now has 32 North West 200 podiums while Rutter has 31. Riders will now head to the Isle of Man for TT fortnight (27th May – 9th June).

 

 

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Michael Rutter fastest in truncated Superbike session

Michael Rutter topped the times in a shortened Superbike session following 25 minutes of running. His lap time of 4:23.943 was 1.7 seconds better than Glenn Irwin’s best effort.

It was Michael Dunlop who ended the session third fastest with a time of 4:25.756, ahead of Martin Jessopp and Peter Hickman. William Dunlop was sixth fastest with James Hillier seventh and Superstock and Supersport pole sitter Alistair Seeley eighth fastest. Lee Johnston and Dean Harrison were ninth and tenth respectively.  The session was red flagged following an incident involving John McGuinness at Primrose. The Honda rider has been taken to hospital with a suspected broken leg.

The remainder of the session was abandoned with 20 minutes left to run due to roads needing to be open within half an hour.

Outside of the top 10 Derek Sheils finished up 11th ahead of McGuinness, Bruce Anstey, Dan Kneen and Jamie Coward.

  1. Michael Rutter 4:23.943
  2. Glenn Irwin 4:25.655
  3. Michael Dunlop 4:25.756
  4. Martin Jessopp 4:26.192
  5. Peter Hickman 4:29.455 

Supersport pole for Alistair Seeley at North West 200

Alistair Seeley continued his fast form with the fastest time in Thursday’s Supersport session. He did a 4:36.444 on his Gearlink Kawasaki to end up 1.2 seconds faster than Lee Johnston. 

A late flyer for Michael Dunlop saw him go third fastest with a 4:38.978. Martin Jessopp finished up fourth fastest ahead of Dean Harrison and James Hillier. Peter Hickman ended the session with the seventh fastest time beating Ian Hutchinson and William Dunlop. Dunlop had had problems with his bike during Tuesday’s session so his lap time was of added importance. Adam McLean rounded out the top ten with an impressive performance.

John McGuinness was just two tenths of a second off a top ten qualifying finish, ahead of Bruce Anstey and James Cowton. Paul Jordan and Jamie Coward rounded out the top 15 fastest riders. 

  1. Alistair Seeley – 4:36.444
  2. Lee Johnston – 4:37.666
  3. Michael Dunlop – 4:38.978
  4. Martin Jessopp – 4:39.512
  5. Dean Harrison – 4:39.667

Alistair Seeley goes fastest in Superstock practice 

After narrowly missing out on the fastest Superstock time on Tuesday, Alistair Seeley signalled his intentions by going nearly three seconds faster than Michael Rutter in Thursday’s session.

The Tyco BMW rider completed a lap of 4:22.104 to take provisional pole with Rutter second with a lap time of 4:25.079. Third fastest in the session was Lee Johnston ahead of Ian Hutchinson by just a tenth of a second. Next up was Dean Harrison with Supertwin pacesetter Martin Jessopp in sixth. Michael Dunlop, James Hillier, Horst Saiger and William Dunlop rounded out the top ten fastest riders in the session.

Just outside the top ten was Dan Kneen ahead of Derek Sheils, Jamie Coward, Steve Mercer and Daley Mathison. 

  1. Alistair Seeley 4:22.104
  2. Michael Rutter 4:25.079
  3. Lee Johnston 4:27.688
  4. Ian Hutchinson 4:27.767
  5. Dean Harrison 4:28.104

Martin Jessopp fastest in Thursday North West 200 Supertwin practice

Martin Jessopp was the fastest rider in Thursday’s Supertwin practice session. His lap-time of 4:55.664 was faster than the time he managed on Tuesday

Michael Rutter was once again second fastest, 1.160 seconds off Jessopp’s pace. Dan Cooper put in a last minute fast lap to go third fastest ahead of Lee Johnston and Ivan Lintin. Derek Sheils was sixth fastest ahead of Adam McLean.

James Cowton ended the session in eight but his bike broke down out on track and he had to get a lift back to the pit area on the back of one of the medical team bikes. Paul Jordan rounded out the top ten fastest times in the session.

Christian Elkin was 11th fastest ahead of Michael Sweeney who also stopped out on track but early on in the session. Kris Duncan, Victor Lopez and Marty Lennon rounded out the top 15 fastest riders.

  1. Martin Jessopp 4:55.664
  2. Michael Rutter 4:56.804
  3. Dan Cooper 4:59.249
  4. Lee Johnston 5:00.626
  5. Ivan Lintin 5:00.850

Michael Rutter leads tight Superstock practice

Michael Rutter ended up fastest in the Superstock practice session on Tuesday afternoon, but it proved to be the closest class of the day with the top three riders separated by just five tenths of a second.

Having finished second fastest in Superbike practice to Alistair Seeley, Rutter turned the tables on his Bathams BMW Superstock machine. He pipped Seeley to the fastest time by just a tenth of a second with Lee Johnston ending up third fastest.

Ian Hutchinson was fourth fastest ahead of Dean Harrison and Martin Jessopp. Michael Dunlop was seventh fastest, finishing ahead of Peter Hickman, William Dunlop, and Horst Saiger.

The session was reduced to 25 minutes in length with the proceedings having been delayed right from the off. A road traffic incident on the circuit led to the newcomers session getting away late consequently reducing the duration of the rest of the sessions. It ran right to the 3pm limit having been red flagged just a couple of minutes in.

A course car got stuck on the apex of the chicane at the end of the start/finish straight, leading to a number of officials having to ‘bounce’ it out of the way:

They had initially tried to control the situation under a yellow flag but when riders got very close to hitting the car it was red flagged.

Full Superstock Practice Results

Martin Jessopp sets fastest Supertwin time in Tuesday practice

Martin Jessopp was the fastest rider in the Tuesday Supertwin practice session at the North West 200.

He topped the times by 1.677 seconds over Michael Rutter who was a last minute entry in the class for KMR, replacing Hudson Kennaugh. 2016 race winner Ivan Lintin ended the session third fastest for Dafabet Devitt Racing while Lee Johnston was fourth.

Dan Cooper – who has returned to the North West 200 following his accident in 2016 which saw him suffer dislocation in both arms – was fifth fastest ahead of James Cowton and Derek Sheils. Paul Jordan, Xavier Denis and Darren James ended up eighth, ninth and tenth respectively.

Barry Furber was eleventh fastest in front of the best placed newcomer Matt Sadowski in twelfth. Paul Gartland, David Madsen-Mygdal and newcomer Lee Bass were 13th, 14th and 15th fastest.