North West 200 Round Up
An incredible weekend of racing at the North West 200 saw Alastair Seeley (Tyco BMW), Peter Hickman (Smiths Racing BMW), Michael Dunlop (Tyco BMW), and Michael Rutter (Bathams Racing) take seven podium finishes, including two Superstock wins, between them on the BMW S 1000 RR.
The North West 200 is seen by many as the start of the International Road Racing season – the first major event of the year before the Isle of Man TT in just a few weeks’ time. The event draws road racing’s biggest stars and BSB specialists to ‘The Triangle Course’ for the annual event. The 2018 edition was no different, as the likes of Hickman and Dunlop were joined by Alastair Seeley, the most successful rider in North West 200 history, and Glenn Irwin on the Ducati.
After practice earlier in the week, racing began on Thursday with the first of two Superstock races. Typical of the North West 200, a small group formed at the front and the slipstream tactics began in the build-up to the closing lap. Hickman, Seeley and Dunlop all took turns at leading during the early stages before Seeley attempted to disappear on his Tyco BMW S 1000 RR.
In what will no doubt become one of the most memorable Superstock races at The Triangle, Hickman launched a late move at the Juniper Chicane on the final lap to pass Seeley. The Tyco rider released the brakes to respond to Hickman but was forced to run through the gravel. Hickman’s move was enough to secure the TT’s fastest newcomer his first win at the North West 200 and the first win for the BMW S 1000 RR of the 2018 event.
Behind him, Seeley recovered for second and Michael Dunlop on the Carl Cox MD Racing BMW S 1000 RR took third for a BMW podium lockout. Just behind, Michael Rutter completed the top four on his Bathams machine and demonstrated the strength of the S 1000 RR in Superstock trim with the first non-BMW home in fifth and over 10 seconds behind Rutter.
Smiths Racing BMW
Saturday morning was host to the first Superbike race of the event, sunshine once again gracing the Northern-Irish costal roads and allowing for smooth running of all the planned racing. Again, Rutter, Seeley, Hickman and Dunlop were together at the front and battling hard for podium positions. Winner of the first Superstock race, Peter Hickman, made a mistake at Metropole and ran on, dropping to 14th before eventually retiring due to a tyre issue.
Seeley pushed hard to close the gap to Glenn Irwin at the front, but a jump-start incurred a five-second penalty and dropped him off the podium after a spirited ride. Michael ‘The Blade’ Rutter called on all of his North West 200 experience to secure third place.
After Thursday’s incredible Superstock race, the second Superstock race of the event was perhaps the most hotly anticipated race of the day. Again, it was Seeley against Hickman after Dan Kneen (Tyco BMW) made a flying start and led the first lap. A small mistake saw Hickman drop behind Seeley at Metropole before forcing his way to the front again.
Not wanting to repeat the previous day’s defeat, Seeley pulled an early move on Hickman down the coast road and built enough of a gap to secure his first big-bike win of the 2018 North West 200 with Hickman 0.186s behind in second place. Michael Dunlop in fourth made it three BMW S 1000 RRs in the top five once again. The win was Seeley’s 24th and continues to push him further and further ahead in the record books of the North West 200.
Saturday’s second Superbike race again saw a close battle for second place after the race was restarted due to an incident on the first lap. Hickman and Dunlop attempted to close down Irwin in the lead, but a rogue stone brought Hickman’s race to an end. Despite a late charge from other riders, Dunlop crossed the line in second place to end the event on a high before travelling to the Isle of Man for the TT. Martin Jessopp (Riders Motorcycles BMW) was the next highest BMW rider in fourth.
In total, the BMW S 1000 RR filled seven of the 12 available big bike podium places at the 2018 North West 200. The BMW superbike is once again the bike to beat as the world turns its attention to the Isle of Man TT from 26 May to 8 June.