Up and coming British superbike rider Glenn Irwin took his first ever road racing win on Saturday, winning the main superbike race at the North West 200 in his native Northern Ireland.
Riding the Paul Bird Motorsport Ducati, Irwin, 27, triumphed in one of the most exciting races to have taken place around the ultra-fast 8.9 mile Triangle circuit.
The race saw a terrific five-way battle for the lead between Irwin, Suzuki’s Michael Dunlop and BMW riders Alastair Seeley, Ian Hutchinson and Michael Rutter.
Irwin led across the line for each of the first six laps, but with tactics and slipstreaming playing a massive role down the 200+mph straights, the race was to be decided on the seventh and final lap. Rutter and Dunlop were the first to drop off the pace, with Irwin and fellow Carrickfergus rider Seeley able to pull a slight advantage over TT legend Hutchinson.
Speaking after the race, Irwin said: “I lost a race along the coast road back in 2015 due to poor positioning so I was determined it wasn’t going to happen again. It’s my favourite part of the circuit but the front was moving around a lot through Black Hill and anyone who says road racing is 90% is talking nonsense, that was flat out all the way! I really wanted that one and I’m absolutely delighted so a big thanks to all the team and the organisers who did a brilliant job and put on a great meeting.”
Seeley, the most successful rider ever at the North West 200, had a huge moment when he run onto the grass on the high speed run into University and although he was able to catch right back up with his rival, he missed out on his 22nd win around the circuit by just 0.172 of a second, with Hutchinson less than three quarters of a second behind the winner at the flag.
Despite missing out on the main event, Seeley was the man of the meeting. Earlier in the day he had won the supersport and superstock races, as well as the four-lap opening superbike race and Thursday’s superstock outing.
The North West 200 is traditionally seen as a warm up to the Isle of Man TT races, with this year’s event proving to be challenging for some of the big names in road racing.
Michael Dunlop gave the new-for-2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000 a solid debut on the roads, but there was turmoil for the Honda Racing squad, who withdrew following a crash on Thursday that saw TT icon John McGuinness suffer a badly broken leg, as well as rib and vertebrae fractures. High profile team-mate Guy Martin had been well off the pace throughout the meeting and scored lowly 23rd place finishes in the two supersport races he competed in on the Wilson Craig Honda CBR600RR.
Speaking after the decision to withdraw from the North West Honda team manager Johnny Twelvetrees said: “Unfortunately John’s incident at Primrose Hill during qualifying has resulted in quite a substantial injury to his right tibia and fibula. It is a real blow to John and the team, but he’s got an incredible amount of spirit and is in very good hands with the medical staff at the Royal Victoria Hospital. We now need to determine what happened and will sit out the superstock and superbike races, get back to Louth to analyse John’s bike and re-group ahead of our next test at Castle Combe in a couple of weeks before we head to the Isle of Man.”