British Superbike star Glenn Irwin roared to a stunning victory in the feature North West 200 Superbike race on Saturday after a pulsating duel with fellow Carrick man Alastair Seeley.
Irwin was making his Superbike debut at the seaside meeting on the PBM Be Wiser Ducati but he emerged as the only rider able to halt Seeley’s sensational winning streak, edging a frenetic last-last scrap along the Coast Road to win by 0.172 seconds.
It was a remarkable achievement by the 27-year-old, who only made his debut at the North West 200 in 2015.
He missed the meeting last year to focus on his commitments in the British Superbike Championship, but Irwin certainly made amends in a race that lived up to its billing as the headline event.
Irwin led for much of the seven-lap thriller but was coming under pressure first from Ian Hutchinson on the Tyco BMW before Seeley mounted his expected charge on the second of the TAS Racing team’s S1000RR machines.
The race was set up for a grandstand finish and that’s exactly what materialised on the final lap as Seeley and Irwin locked horns around the 8.9-mile Triangle course.
The Wee Wizard seized his moment at Metropole in Portrush when a slower rider appeared to cause race leader Irwin to hesitate, but Irwin wasn’t finished.
He thundered into Black Hill and got excellent drive to forge ahead once more, blazing along the Coast Road and holding his nerve on the brakes into the Juniper chicane to effectively wrap up his first North West 200 win to the delight of the massive crowds at the start/finish area.
Behind the top two, Hutchinson crossed the line in third, seven tenths back, with Michael Dunlop taking fourth on his new Bennetts Suzuki GSX-R1000.
Irwin said: “I lost a race along the coast road back in 2015 due to poor positioning so I was determined it wasn’t going to happen again. It’s my favourite part of the circuit but the front was moving around a lot through Black Hill.
“Anyone who says road racing is 90% is talking nonsense, that was flat out all the way! I really wanted that one and I’m absolutely delighted, so a big thanks to all the team and the organisers who did a brilliant job and put on a great meeting.”
Michael Rutter was fifth on the Bathams BMW ahead of Dean Harrison (Silicone Engineering Kawasaki), with the top eight completed by Martin Jessopp and Peter Hickman on their BMW machines.