Martin Jessopp took his third North West 200 victory late on Thursday evening when a superb final lap, utilising tactics and his knowledge of the circuit, saw the Riders Motorcycles Kawasaki rider come out on top in a thrilling Supertwins race just ahead of Jeremy McWilliams (IEG/KMR Kawasaki) and long time race leader Joey Thompson (ILR/Coverdale Paton).
McWilliams led the field round at the end of the first lap but it was close as just one second covered the top five with Thompson, Adam McLean, James Cowton and Jessopp in hot pursuit of the former 250cc Grand Prix winner. By University on lap two though, Thompson had taken over at the front, the Paton taking full advantage of the long straights.
Half way round lap two, Thompson appeared to have made the break and it was now McLean in second with McWilliams having ran slightly wide at the Metropole. Despite Thompson getting his head down, by the time he’d reached the start and finish, the rest of the pack had reeled him in and his lead over McLean was back down to 0.243s. Jessopp was now up to third ahead of McWilliams and Cowton, still only 1.4s separating the top six as Christian Elkin latched on to the back of the group.
Lap three and Thompson again edged away on the high speed run to University as McWilliams moved back up to second ahead of Jessopp and McLean but that had all changed by the time they got back to Magherabuoy!
As the riders flashed across the line to start their final lap, the order was Thompson, Cowton, Jessopp, McLean and McWilliams and it was anyone’s race although the Paton of Thompson again kept everyone at bay on the run to University.
Jessopp nosed ahead on the exit of the Ballysally Roundabout only for Thompson to respond but as they exited the Metropole, Jessopp dived back in front and the Yeovil rider duly held on to repeat his victory of twelve months ago. Thompson ran onto the grass at the Juniper chicane to almost miss out on a podium completely and it was McWilliams who took advantage of the mayhem to claim second.
Thompson regrouped to take his first NW200 podium in third with McLean and Cowton close behind, the latter losing out on third having been forced to take evasive action when Thompson went grass tracking in front of him.
The top ten was completed by Elkin, Victor Lopez, Darren Cooper, Michael Sweeney and Denver Robb.