British Superbike rookie Glenn Irwin has predicted that current North West 200 king Alastair Seeley will have a real fight on his hands to become the most successful rider ever in the event’s history.
Seeley maintained his sensational winning streak around the 8.9-mile ‘Triangle’ course on the North Coast last year, powering to a stunning treble to join Ballymoney legend Robert Dunlop on 15 victories.
The Wee Wizard has scaled the top step every year at the North West 200 since he achieved his maiden success in 2008 and is a red-hot favourite to nail down the solitary win he requires in May to set a new milestone at the famous international road race.
However, fellow Carrick man Irwin says Seeley’s record bid is far from a foregone conclusion, even stating that he believes the 36-year-old won’t win another race at the seaside meeting.
Irwin, who is currently at Portimao in Portugal where he will test the PBM Be Wiser Ducati Panigale Superbike for the first time alongside his BSB team-mate Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne, said: “If I’m being truthfully honest, I think [Alastair] Seeley has a big fight on his hands with Lee Johnston to get any victories and I think if I go, then I don’t think he will beat Robert’s record between myself and Lee giving him a run for the wins.
“I honestly mean that and I don’t think he’ll win another North West. I could be wrong, but personally that’s how I see it. You’ve also got Peter Hickman, who missed out last year at the North West [through injury]; he’ll be right up there again this year, of course he will.”
Irwin made a headline-grabbing debut at the North West last year and challenged Seeley for the lead in race one before he was ruled out with an engine failure on the Gearlink Kawasaki.
Irwin was in the thick of the action again in the second Supersport race on the main Saturday bill, which saw him embroiled in a frenetic three-way dice for the lead with Seeley and Lee Johnston.
The outcome was decided at the final chicane, with Seeley coming out on top as Irwin grabbed the runner-up spot from Fermanagh racer Johnston.
Reflecting on his whirlwind debut, Irwin recalled: “I was new to it and I didn’t think I’d be in that position. Then when the rain came on, I had my hand up and that was me, I was out of the race as far as I was concerned and I was three seconds behind Seeley.
“But then it started to dry up when we got to Portrush and I got the hammer down again.
“Seeley had broken my slipstream and three seconds is a lot to catch back up to somebody. To get back up there and get back into the lead and then throw it away was hard to take.
“This year, I just want the chance to go and back up what I did and I know that Mervyn [Whyte] is keen for me to go back and do it again. He spoke to Paul [Bird] about it in Macau I think.
“It would be great to have the Ducati out there at the North West because I remember the big twin when I was a kid and it’s a very distinguished noise, so it’d be special for the fans,” Irwin added.
“People reckon it’s not the bike for the roads but if you read the winners’ list, there is some amount of Ducati wins at the North West over the years.”
Irwin finished fourth in last season’s British Supersport Championship and has landed one of the most sought-after rides in the BSB paddock with Paul Bird Motorsport, whose Ducati team will receive direct factory support from Bologna.