2018 North West 200: Irwin dominates first Superbike race

Picture: Derek Wilson

Glenn Irwin claimed his second successive North West 200 Superbike victory on Saturday when he led from start to finish on his Be Wiser Ducati.

With a near four second lead at the end of the first lap, the 27-year extended it to five seconds at one stage and although the group behind closed to within a second just after half race distance, he immediately responded and was able to ease off along the coast road on the final lap, taking the win from Dean Harrison (Silicone Engineering Kawasaki) and the evergreen Michael Rutter (Bathams Racing BMW).

It was Irwin who grabbed the lead off the line to lead into York and throughout the first lap he pulled away, so much so that by the end of the lap his lead was an unprecedented 3.7s. Rutter crossed the line in second ahead of Alastair Seeley, Harrison, Michael Dunlop and Conor Cummins, the latter the leading Honda. However, Seeley picked up a five second penalty for jumping the start, slipping back to fifth and there was disaster too for Peter Hickman who overshot at Metropole when lying third and he dropped all the way back down to 14th.

Second time around and Irwin continued to pull away, the advantage as he reached the start and finish line exactly five seconds but Seeley was now up to second, on the road at least, ahead of Harrison, Rutter, Lee Johnston – who lapped at 122.238mph – and Dunlop. Hickman, meanwhile, had worked his way up to eighth but Dan Kneen was out, overshooting at Metropole and then pulling in at the pits.

With clear road in front of me, Seeley got his head down and began to close in on Irwin, reducing the deficit to 3.6s at the end of the third lap and behind him, Harrison and Rutter maintained station in third and fourth and doing their best to tuck in behind Seeley. Hickman was now up eighth.

On the fourth lap, it was Harrison who made the move first and a lap of 122.251mph saw him not only overhaul Seeley for second but also close right in on Irwin, the gap now just 0.8s. Indeed, there was only 1.9s covering the top five – Irwin, Harrison, Rutter and Johnston with Seeley slipping back to fifth on corrected time – and the race was all about these five riders as Dunlop was now a further ten seconds back.

With his lead having been reduced significantly, Irwin responded immediately and by the end of lap six he was 2.9s clear with Harrison and Johnston battling for second and third. Dunlop was out though and there was disappointment for Gary Johnson too as he retired from seventh on the final lap.

There were no such problems for Irwin though and although Harrison kept pushing, the Ducati rider had time to wave to the fans through Juniper Chicane to take his second NW200 win with Harrison and Rutter completing the podium. Johnston took fourth with Seeley in fifth and Conor Cummins in sixth, the latter also picking up a ten second penalty for going straight on at Juniper.

Martin Jessopp took seventh ahead of Sam West, James Hillier and Dan Cooper.

Click here for results

Picture: Impact Images
Picture: Derek Wilson
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