North West 200: 2016 Report.

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By Philip Wain

The International North West 200 saw beautiful sunshine and clear blue skies all week but the event was again left with a dark cloud hanging over it after the tragic death of Malachi Mitchell-Thomas in Saturday’s Supertwin race.

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The Chorley rider was lying in third place at the time and was tipped for great things having already taken a hat-trick this season at the Mid-Antrim 150 as well as taking podiums at the Tandragee 100 and Cookstown 100. The 20-year old was making his debut at the North West 200 and had earlier taken a brilliant fourth place in the Supersport race ahead of names like John McGuinness, Lee Johnston and James Hillier.

Winner of the 2015 Senior Manx Grand Prix and outright lap record holder at the event, Malachi was clearly destined for great things and everyone at MoreBikes would like to offer their deepest sympathy to all his family friends.

Road racing legend Ryan Farquhar was also seriously injured after crashing in Thursday’s Supertwin race, with Mitchell-Thomas’ crash ironically happening at the identical spot. The event also had to contend with an oil tanker fire on Thursday evening and a security alert on Saturday but, as expected, when the racing was running smoothly, it was high-speed, hectic stuff.

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Alastair Seeley created history on Thursday evening when he won the Supersport race, bringing his total number of victories around the 8.9-mile circuit to 16 thus breaking Robert Dunlop’s long standing record of 15. Seeley then made it win number 17 in Saturday’s Supersport encounter, again riding the Gearlink Kawasaki.

“To be mentioned in the same breath as the Dunlop’s is unreal,” he said afterwards. “Things are all clicking into place at the moment and I came here with confidence after some good BSB rides so it’s all falling into place. The bike hasn’t changed much since I rode it in the British Supersport Championship and it’s really dialled in. At half race distance, I decided to get my head down, put in a couple of qualifying laps and see if I could open up a gap.”

The Ulsterman was expected to dominate proceedings but a couple of mistakes cost him more victories and it was Ian Hutchinson and Michael Dunlop who took the honours in the Superstock and Superbike races respectively, the former seeing no less than seven riders battle for the win. It was Hutchinson’s first win at the event since 2006.

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“That’s made my day – and hopefully the team’s!”, Hutchinson said. “It was really fast out there with the weather conditions and I felt like a mathematician trying to work out the laps and where I needed to be. I was strong through Station, taking it flat out in top, and I was able to get a good run along there each lap. With two laps to go, I started to get myself in a good position and it all worked out well. I’ve loved riding the Tyco BMW from day one and it’s nice to win again – six years is a long time to wait!”

Dunlop, meanwhile, claimed a new outright lap record of 123.207mph in a Superbike race that was stopped after Bruce Anstey crashed at Church, fortunately without injury. The Kiwi set a new record through the speedtrap at a phenomenal 209.8mph.

Ivan Lintin won both Supertwin races although these were naturally overshadowed by the loss of Mitchell-Thomas and the serious injury to Farquhar and the event again finds itself at the crossroads after yet another difficult year.

Tony Carter

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