Alastair Seeley claimed his 22nd victory at the Vauxhall International North West 200 in Thursday’s opening Supersport 600 race.
It was Carrick man Seeley’s 11th victory in the class at the event as he maintained his stunning record of winning at least one race at the North West ever since his maiden triumph in 2008.
Seeley put in a blistering sixth and final lap to break the tow of the chasing riders as he pulled away to win by 2.4 seconds from James Hillier on the JG Speedfit Kawasaki, with Fermanagh’s Lee Johnston claiming the final rostrum place on the Padgett’s Honda.
Riding the EHA Yamaha, Seeley was involved in a thrilling five-rider battle, with Hillier, Johnston, Dean Harrison and Gary Johnson.
The lead changed hand numerous times around the 8.9-mile course, with Seeley, Johnston and Harrison going toe to toe.
However, Seeley utilised all of his experience at the event as he made a break for it on the final lap, setting the fastest lap of the race as he gained the upper hand when it mattered most.
Harrison could only finish fourth when a rostrum looked within his grasp, while the top six was completed by Lincolnshire man Johnson on the Lee Hardy Triumph and Manx rider Conor Cummins (Padgett’s Honda).
Ian Hutchinson was an excellent seventh on the Padgett’s Honda as he made his road racing comeback from injury.
One of the pre-race favourites, Martin Jessopp, crashed out on the first lap at Mill Road roundabout, hampering a number of riders, including Michael Dunlop. The Ballymoney man eventually retired from the race.
His brother, William, was also reported as a retirement at University on the Temple Golf Club Yamaha.
Peter Hickman did not start the race after failing to register a qualifying lap on his Triumph.
Newcomer Davey Todd was a faller at the Magherabuoy chicane but escaped unscathed.