North West 200 record holder Alastair Seeley has dropped the Superstock races from his schedule as he bids to return to winning ways in the blue riband Superbike class this month.
Seeley has chalked up an incredible 24 victories around the Triangle course, but only four of those have been achieved in the premier category.
With fellow Carrickfergus man Glenn Irwin stealing the Superbike limelight with three successive wins in the class since 2017, Seeley is determined to etch his name back onto the most coveted piece of silverware at the 90th anniversary meeting of the north coast road race.
To that end, he pursued a deal with Paul Bird to ride the new Ducati V4-R and the 39-year-old got what he wished for.
The Italian machine has dominated in the World Superbike Championship in the hands of Alvaro Bautista, and Seeley will be hoping some of that success rubs off when he unleashes the exotic Ducati on the public roads around Portrush, Portstewart and Coleraine in under two weeks’ time.
He will also focus on claiming a repeat of his Supersport double at the event in 2018 on the EHA Racing Yamaha, when he was simply in a league of his own on the YZF-R6.
Seeley, who will start in four races in total, said: “When I rode for Tyco BMW the team had bikes available for the Superbike and ’Stock races but I would have to ride for three different teams this year and that would mean too much jumping about.
“I would have three different teams to work with, three different debriefs to attend and three different bikes to set up. Plus three sets of leathers to be constantly changing.
“I will be able to concentrate all my efforts on the Supersport and Superbike races.”
Seeley is chasing a quarter-century of victories at the fonaCAB International North West 200 in association with Nicholl Oils, where he bagged a treble last year – including two wins in the Supersport class and a Superstock victory.
He will start as favourite on the EHA Yamaha Supersport machine, which he is riding each week in the British Supersport Championship, while his absence from the Superstock races at the North West will allow him more time to get dialled into the Ducati during practice.
Seeley has had very little time on the PBM Ducati but is set to undertake a two-day test next week after the Oulton Park British Superbike round.
“Apart from a couple of spins on Josh Brookes’s bike at the BSB test at Portimao in March I haven’t ridden the Ducati,” he said.
“It felt nice to ride but not really, really fast which is a good thing. Something that doesn’t feel fast but is fast is ideal for the North West and the power delivery is very smooth and linear.”
The two-time British champion has been keeping a close eye on the progress of the V4-R and is confident the bike will be ready to hit the ground running at the North West.
“Josh and I were team-mates for a couple of years at Tyco and I have spent a lot of time talking and listening to him about the Ducati,” Seeley said.
“There were problems at Silverstone but there are new parts arriving all the time to help with development. Josh was fastest at the BSB test at Oulton last week and seems to have hit a sweet spot with the bike now.
“The team is planning a two day test for me next week before the North West begins and we will need that track time to get set up and feel comfortable because this is a brand new bike.”
Weighing up his prospects of adding to his tally, a confident Seeley said: “Twenty five would be nice.
“I would like to get the job done on Thursday night in the Supersport race because that takes some of the pressure off and anything else we can do will be a bonus.”
Practice gets underway on Tuesday, May 14, with final practice and the opening races taking place on Thursday, May 16.
The main five-race race bill, including both Superbike races, will be held on Saturday, May 18.