Friday, May 18, 2007

The Northwest 200

In the world of motorcycle real road racing, there's three races that are the "crown jewels": the Isle of Man TT, the Ulster Grand Prix and the Northwest 200.

The Northwest, first of the three each year, was held a couple of weeks ago, and produced some absolutely cracking racing. Anyone used to watching the Isle of Man TT will find the Northwest an entirely different spectacle. Despite the fact that both run on extremely fast public roads over a distance much longer than permanent circuits, the TT's "against the clock" format takes the sting out of the racing. The Northwest on the other hand has all riders start together, so when two riders are side by side they are racing for position. The same situation on the TT could mean anything, depending on where the riders are in relation to each other in the start order. The Northwest's format doesn't just make things more exciting for spectators, it also seems to inspire the riders to push that much harder.

I've noticed that there seems to be an increasing level of interest in the real road racing scene from the powerhouse teams of British Superbike, with many of the top teams signing the quickest riders from the roads to ride their highly-developed, big-budget machinery. This year was no exception. HM Plant Honda had multiple TT-winner John McGuinness; Stobart Honda brought in experienced Welshman Ian Lougher; MSS Discovery are running with Michael Rutter, not just on the roads but in BSB too; AIM Yamaha's Steve Plater is also doing both the roads and BSB; and Hydrex Honda signed likeable Brit Guy Martin for their roads campaign.

Joining these top teams were all the other top riders from the real road racing scene: New Zealander Bruce Anstey, Australian Cameron Donald, Scotland's Keith Amor, and the best Irish riders such as Adrian Archibald and Ryan Farquhar.

The weekend featured 1000cc superbikes and 600cc supersport bikes each running two races, supported by a superstock race and the 125s, 250s and 400s all running together in one final race. The first superbike race was abbreviated after a couple of red flags and when all was said and done John McGuinness grabbed his first Northwest superbike victory, despite being confused as to whether the race was actually over or not. The second superbike race was absolutely riveting, coming down to a race-long dogfight between McGuinness, Rutter, Martin and Plater. Plater's no-nonsense style allowed him to clinch victory, after Martin "nerfed" McGuinness off the road. Plater has not been particularly successful in BSB these last few years, so his prowess in the NW200 must be a source of satisfaction for him.

Next up is the fearsome Isle of Man TT. My good friend Peely is flying out from California next Friday to see the TT for the first time. I had to decline the invite given my plans to go to Le Mans, but I'm really looking forward to hearing from him what it's like. Perhaps he'll let me post some photos up here!

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