Alastair Seeley and the Be Wiser Ducati team saw their hopes of victory at the 90th anniversary fonaCAB International North West 200 in association with Nicholl Oils thwarted by inclement weather on the Causeway Coast of Northern Ireland yesterday with one of the Superbike races cut to four laps and the second NW200 feature race cancelled completely.
Nevertheless, the 24-times winner from Carrickfergus posted a time inside the lap record during qualifying and finished in a solid fifth place on the factory-supported Be Wiser Ducati Panigale V4 R in the solitary Anchor Bar Superbike race.
The 8.9-mile circuit linking the towns of Portstewart, Coleraine and Portrush had been blessed with fine, sunny weather during qualifying and the 39-year-old ‘Wee Wizard’, having his first competitive outing on the bike for Paul Bird’s Penrith-based team, posted the third quickest time on Tuesday with a time of 4m 28.050s putting him on the provisional front row.
Thursday’s second and final 45-minute qualifying session saw superb conditions once more and Alastair was able to improve his lap time by more than six seconds and although his lap time of 4m 22.044s (123.231mph) kept him in third place, he was only 0.277s adrift of pole position man Glenn Irwin.
Such was the pace of the top three riders, they all lapped inside the outright lap record of 123.207mph and were over three seconds clear of fourth placed Michael Dunlop.
Unfortunately, Saturday dawned wet and misty and numerous delays meant the first Superbike race didn’t get underway until 4.25pm but when it did, a good start by Seeley saw him lead the field into York Corner. By the end of the lap, he found himself in third place behind the Kawasaki pairing of Hillier and Irwin and as the race progressed, he was locked in battle with Derek Sheils for fourth.
With the rain continuing to fall, conditions were extremely tough all around the public road circuit and after encountering a few stability issues at high speed Alastair exercised caution to bring the bike safely home in a solid fifth place.
As the day wore on, conditions failed to improve and a combination of rain, fading light and descending mist meant the second Superbike race was cancelled with proceedings for the day brought to an end just after 7.15pm.
Alastair Seeley: “The dry sessions in qualifying on Tuesday and Thursday were very positive as I was P3 on both days and on Thursday I improved my time by six seconds. It was the fastest I’ve ever been around the NW200 circuit and with very little testing time I’d say that was an outstanding result. It set me up perfectly for race day but, unfortunately, Saturday saw tricky conditions as it was both damp and greasy. With no wet time on the bike it was tough and in the first race, I experienced high speed instability and a lack of drive grip, but I brought the bike home in fifth place. The second race was cancelled so it was a slightly disappointing event, but I’ll be back next year fighting for the wins. I have to say a big thank you to the PBM team and Be Wiser Ducati for the opportunity to ride the new V4 R and for all their help through testing and race week. I hope I get the chance again someday.”
Johnny Mowatt, Team Co-ordinator: “After a promising qualifying session on Thursday and securing a front row start with the brand new Be Wiser Ducati V4 R by being on lap record pace, race day didn’t go to plan due to bad weather and long delays which put paid to really showing the potential of Alastair on board the bike. It’s a real shame for everyone involved with the event including all the spectators who came to see us race. From everyone at PBM, we’d like to thank Alastair for his professional approach from the minute we made contact and hopefully in the future things could be different.”