British Superbike star Glenn Irwin was a man on form at this weekend’s North West 200 meeting in Northern Ireland, taking wins in the two superbike races on board his Ducati Panigale R.
The 28-year-old from Carrickfergus, who won his first North West 200 race last year, swept to pole position in Thursday’s qualifying session – setting an average lap speed of 122.454mph around the public roads course, and was never headed in the seven lap races on Saturday. It was a particularly poignant pair of victories for Irwin, as his British superbike team-mate Shane Byrne was hospitalised on Thursday during a testing accident, and afterwards he said: “What can I say, it’s just been an awesome day! I managed to get the holeshot in both races and just got my head down which allowed me to break the tow of the other riders. With clear road, you can ride almost the perfect lap and the support I was getting from the crowd was unreal – I didn’t need a pitboard as the crowd were giving me all the signals I needed! The sun shone all day and the crowd was huge so with it being a hard week for the team after Shakey’s accident, hopefully today’s wins have lifted everyone’s spirits.”
Unusually, this year’s North West 200 was held in glorious weather conditions, which lead to a massive crowd and some spectacular racing. Behind Irwin, there was a fantastic battle between some of the top TT racers for the final podium positions in the main NW200 superbike race, that saw Michael Dunlop take the silver medal from Lee Johnston, Martin Jessopp and Conor Cummins – with less than 0.7 seconds separating the four at the flag.
Alastair Seeley, the most successful racer ever around the famous 8.97-mile ‘Triangle’ circuit took his total number of wins up to 24 with success in the two supersport races and Saturday’s superstock outing. Jessopp and James Cowton shared the honours in the Supertwins races, with Peter Hickman taking Thursday’s Superstock win on the Smith’s Racing BMW S 1000 RR.
Also notable was the return of Ian Hutchinson from injury. The TT ace badly broke his leg in last year’s Senior TT and was still doubtful for this year’s event after a long recovery period. Hutchy made his roads debut on the Honda Racing CBR1000RR Fireblade at the North West, finishing seventh in the showcase superbike race. The event also saw local hero Jonathan Rea, the Carole Nash-sponsored three time superbike world champion, take in a parade lap on Kawasaki’s supercharged Ninja H2R (above).
The North West 200 is the first big international road racing meeting of the season and is seen as a precursor to the Isle of Man TT races, which take place in the first week of June.