A guide to the 2013 Northwest 200
The Northwest 200 is a fast, balls out road race event that has been held in Northern Ireland since the 30s. It offers incredibly high speeds (in excess of 200 miles per hour) due to long straights on the famous 9 mile triangle course that's made up of public roads running between the towns of Portstewart, Coleraine and Portrush. Racing is held over a week in May, with a Tuesday and Thursday practice and races on Thursday evening and all day Saturday. Fans in their thousands make the trip every year from all over the world to catch the action.
The Northwest course is a 9 mile round trip. From the start finish straight riders enter Portstewart, and then take a left hander at York hairpin. This leads them onto the first of the straights and takes them down to Millroad Roundabout which is taken anti-clockwise. They then open the throttle and reach speeds of nearly 140mph before flying through Station corner (the fastest one the track). They then crank up the speed again, fly through Black Bridge and hit top gear. The run down into University corner is the fastest section of the course where riders can reach over 200mph. They then head onto Ballysally roundabout which again they take anti-clockwise and onto Portrush road and up to Mathers Cross chicane. On from this is the Magherabuoy Chicane which offers lots of chances for late braking and passing. This leads into Metropole Corner, the fast left hand sweeper, which in turn leads into the tight right-hander of Church corner. The last section of coast roads comprise of Railway Arch, a left right under the railway bridge, the twisty Black Hill section and then finally the Juniper Hill chicane.
Riders to watch:
Josh Brookes - The MCE BSB star is starting his first ever roads campaign, there's been a lot of talk about Josh in the build up to the Northwest. He's confident he can do well here, maybe even pick up a win. We'll have to see how his short circuit experience carries over onto the roads.
Karl Harris - The bomber also makes his first appearance at the Northwest. He's done the TT so knows what roads is all about. He had a last minute team change as PR Kawasaki who he races for in MCE BSB had to pull out due to financial difficulties, but Millsport Racing stepped in and offered him a Superstock-spec 1199R Ducati Panigale, which he gladly accepted.
Alastair Seeley - The MCE BSB support class rider knows his way round this track. With a total of eight Northwest wins to his name he is certainly one of the favourites. He'll be taking part in the Superbike, Superstock and Supersport classes. Riding for Kawasaki this year the Carrickfergus rider ended his association with TAS Suzuki during the winter.
Michael Dunlop - One of the young stars of the road racing world. 24-year old Dunlop has had a great season so far showing good form for the Honda Legends World Endurance team and also enjoyed Superbike doubles at the Cookstown 100 and Tandragee Irish national races. He's guaranteed to come out fighting and looks very comfortable on the Honda. Expect him to make up for last years poor performance where he failed to win a podium spot.
William Dunlop - Unlike his brother, the older Dunlop has a much smoother and less aggressive style. Also unlike his brother he'll be lining up on a Milwaukee Yamaha. He took the win in the Supersport 600 last year so keep an eye on him.
John McGuinness - The legend from Morecombe will be joining Dunlop on his favoured Honda. You can never discount McGuinness but expect him to go best in the showcase Superbike events.
Michael Rutter - Another MCE BSB regular, the Blade is someone who knows this track very well. At the moment he sits joint second with Joey Dunlop on the all time winners list with 13. He's been hampered by injury though after picking up a leg injury in pre-season testing, hopefully this won't affect his racing in the Northwest.
Guy Martin - One of the most famous road racers out there, Guy is always hoping for a win. He'll be teaming up with Brookes at Tyco and will be in and around the sharp end no doubt.
Bruce Anstey - The New Zealand born racer is definitely a podium contender, he'll be racing in every class with Padgetts Honda.
Simon Andrews - Last year he set the lap record for the fastest ever newcomer, can the Englishman make a mark this year?
Cameron Donald - Another rider in search of that first Northwest win, Cam will be racing for Wilson Craig Honda.
Stuart Easton - After a nasty crash in practice two years ago on the Cormore section of the course that nearly ended his racing career, Easton returns to show what he's made of. Expect him and Seeley to clash as these boys race week in week out in the Supersport class in MCE BSB.
Gary Johnson - The former school mate of Guy Martin will be hoping to go well on the MV Agusta in the 600s and on Hondas in the other classes.
Conor Cummins - Always remembered for the horrific crash at the TT a few years back. Conor who is partnering Dunlop on the Milwaukee Yamahas, is aiming to improve his luck this year after last years crash at Mather's Cross.
Other riders to keep an eye out for include another MCE BSB star, Martin Jessopp, who was clocked doing 208mph at the Northwest last year. Kawasaki rider James Hillier, Bradford's Dean Harrison and Australian newcomer David Johnson could all also make an impact.
With plenty of riders out there with different levels of experience, as always the Northwest 200 is set to be a thrilling race event. Keep up with Big Ed on Facebook for all the latest goings on.
Northwest 200 Practice and Race Schedule:
Tuesday 14 May - Roads close from 09:30 BST to 14:30 for practices. Practice order - Newcomers, Supersport, Superbike, Supertwins, Superstock.
Thursday 16 May - Roads close from 09:30 to 14:30 for practices and from 17:15 to 21:00 for racing Practice order - Supertwins, Superstock, Supersport and Superbike Race order - Supersport (6 laps, 18:00), Supertwins (4 laps, 19:00), Superstock (6 laps, 20:00)
Saturday 18 May - Roads close from 10:00 to 18:30 for racing Race order - Supersport, Superbikes, Supertwins, Superstock, Superbike
15.05.13 - Big Ed