PLATER PREDICTING A THRILLING ENCOUNTER

PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 17/4/2013: North West 200 stars William Dunlop, Martin Jessopp and Maria Costello are pictured with the new Superbike race trophy on the North Coast today. The feature Superbike race will have the new trophy and a new sponsor for 2013 with Vauxhall adding the race to their portfolio of title and Thursday Supertwin race support.'PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 17/4/2013: North West 200 stars William Dunlop, Martin Jessopp and Maria Costello are pictured with the new Superbike race trophy on the North Coast today. The feature Superbike race will have the new trophy and a new sponsor for 2013 with Vauxhall adding the race to their portfolio of title and Thursday Supertwin race support.'PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON

FORMER North West 200 Superbike king Steve Plater is predicting one of the closest ever showdowns in the premier class on the North Coast in May.

Plater, who scored eight victories on the 8.9-mile ‘Triangle’ circuit prior to his retirement from road racing in 2010, is still heavily involved with the international showpiece in his role as a rider liaison officer.

The highly-popular Lincolnshire man is impressed by the depth of talent on display this year, with a grid that includes a line-up unmatched by any roads meeting in the world.

A star-studded cast list of top names such as John McGuinness, Michael and William Dunlop, Guy Martin, Bruce Anstey, Cameron Donald, Michael Rutter and Gary Johnson is enhanced by British championship contenders Josh Brookes, Alastair Seeley, Stuart Easton and Martin Jessopp.

At a press conference in Portstewart last Wednesday night, title sponsors Vauxhall were confirmed as the main backers of the feature NW200 Superbike race and Plater is relishing the prospect of a heavyweight shootout next month.

“It’s a great line-up and there are so many riders capable of challenging for the podium,” he told the News Letter.

“You’ve got the usual guys like Seeley, McGuinness, Rutter and the Dunlops but never, ever rule out Bruce Anstey or Cameron Donald.

“Guy Martin has had a lot of bad luck but causes a lot of problems for himself, but he’s still very capable of winning races at the North West 200.”