Smiths Racing BMW rider Peter Hickman took his first ever North West 200 victory on Thursday evening when a late braking manoeuvre at the Juniper chicane saw him overhaul Alastair Seeley and run out victor from the Northern Irishman by half a second. Michael Dunlop took third on his MD Racing machine to make it a BMW podium sweep.
The race was delayed slightly by an oil spill that occurred on the sighting lap and it was 7.25pm when the race came under starters orders, Hickman taking an early lead. Hillier slotted into second from Dunlop, Michael Rutter and Dan Kneen although the latter moved up a spot at the Mathers chicane.
At the end of the opening lap Hickman still led but it was now Dunlop in second from James Hillier, Kneen, Seeley, Dean Harrison and Rutter, just seven seconds covering the first seven riders. Dunlop took over the lead on the second lap at Mathers and he held on for the remainder of the lap with Hickman, Seeley, Hillier and Rutter now the top five as Harrison and Kneen went straight on at the Juniper chicane.
Harrison picked up a ten second penalty having not stopped at the chicane after his misdemeanour but at the head of the field it was all change as that man Seeley went into the lead, aided by a lap of 122.514mph. He was only 0.3s ahead of Hickman though as Dunlop slipped back to third. Hillier had also dropped back into the clutches of Rutter but both Kneen and Jessopp were out of luck as they retired at the pits.
Lap four and the leading trio were still locked in battle, just 0.4s between them as they flashed across the line to start their penultimate lap and it was Rutter now up to fourth at the expense of Hillier with Harrison now in sixth despite his penalty.
Hickman nosed ahead on the fifth lap only for Seeley to put his BMW back ahead going into the Metropole and as they went into the final lap it had become a four-rider battle for supremacy as Rutter clawed his way onto the back of the trio, his fifth lap some two seconds quicker than the rest.
Going into the final 8.9 miles there was just 1.3s separating the leading quartet but, just as he had done in the earlier Supersport race, Seeley edged away on the final lap and looked on course for yet another victory. However, Hickman had other ideas and sneaked ahead with Seeley having to take to the grass although he held onto second with Dunlop in third, one second covering them as they took the chequered flag.
Rutter’s late charge saw him just fall short in fourth with Hillier and Harrison taking fifth and sixth. Lee Johnston had a lonely ride into seventh, the first of the Hondas, with Gary Johnson, Sam West and Derek McGee completing the top ten. Ian Hutchinson came through from the second wave to take 13th.