2023 fonaCAB and Nicholl Oils North West 200
After almost not happening at all this year, the 2023 North West 200 is now shaping up as a ripper with a great field of road racing talent.
British Superbike Championship competitors, Glenn Irwin, Alastair Seeley and Richard Cooper are all confirmed to join Road Racing’s leading names during May 7-13 race week.
As the only between the hedges race the British championship trio currently compete in, their success around the famous 8.9 mile course provides the Northern Ireland event with a unique dimension not shared by any of the other major road race meetings.
Irwin, the winner of the last six superbike races at Portrush, has returned to the PBM Ducati squad for the 2023 British Superbike series. The Carrickfergus racer last raced with Paul Bird’s team in 2018, winning three times at the NW200 on the Italian superbike before scoring another big bike victory at Portrush in 2019 on a JG Speedfit Kawasaki. Last year the 33 year old scooped a Superbike double at the seaside meeting in the Anchor Bar and Merrow Hotel Superbike races on the Honda Racing Fireblade.
Alastair Seeley, the NW200’s most successful rider with 27 wins, won three races at last year’s event. After leading the opposition home in the Strain Engineering Supersport and Turkington Superstock races during a wet Thursday evening, the 43 year old also sealed victory in Saturday’s CP Hire Superstock contest. Seeley has reunited with Philip and Hector Neill’s TAS BMW team for 2023, campaigning a Milwaukee liveried BMW in the British Superstock series. He will also race that machine plus a Superbike-spec version of the M1000RR in the same colours at the NW200.
Richard Cooper made his North West 200 debut in 2019, finishing second in the CP Hire Superstock race to claim the leading newcomer honours. The Nottingham rider crossed the finish line first in both of last year’s Supertwin races but was disqualified because of a technical infringement with his machine. Cooper enjoyed the consolation of finishing on the podium of the Turkington Superstock race plus claiming second and third place finishes in both Superbike contests on a Hawk Racing Suzuki. The former double British Superstock champion will return to Portrush in May aboard a Boyce Precision Engineering by Russell Racing Yamaha for the 600cc races plus a still to be confirmed superbike-spec machine.
Over 100 entrants, including a line-up of international competitors from 13 countries outside the UK and Ireland, will take part in the Tuesday and Thursday qualifying sessions at this year’s North West 200 ahead of a nine race programme that includes three events on Thursday evening and five during Saturday’s main race day.
With Irwin, Seeley and Cooper all competing in the opening rounds of the British championship, they should arrive on the north coast in razor sharp form. Amongst the opposition awaiting them will be local favourite, Michael Dunlop. The Ballymoney racer will ride a Honda Fireblade in the Superbike class for the first time since 2013 as he retains his seat in the Hawk Racing outfit which has made the switch from Suzuki power this year. The 33 year old will also be Honda-mounted in his own MD Racing colours in the Superstock class alongside a R6 Yamaha in the Supersport division.
Ashcourt Racing’s Lee Johnston, a Supersport race winner at last year’s NW200, and KTS Steadplan’s Jamie Coward will also make the switch to Honda power in the premier class.
The official Honda UK squad will be represented at the NW200 by veteran John McGuinness and new signing, Nathan Harrison.
The Milenco Padgett’s pairing of Davey Todd, a four-time NW200 runner-up last May, and Manxman Conor Cummins, will also return to action on Hondas in the Superbike, Superstock and Supersport classes.
Peter Hickman laid down a new NW200 outright lap record aboard the FHO Racing BMW last May. The Burton on Trent rider will be mounted on the same machinery this year in both the Superbike and Superstock classes. He will also ride a 675cc Triumph in the Supersport races and a PHR liveried Aprilia in the Twins events.
Hickman will be joined by new FHO Racing teammate, Josh Brookes, in both 1000cc classes. The Australian returned to the north coast event last season after an eight year absence, finishing on the podium in the feature Merrow Hotel Superbike event.
2019 NW200 Superstock race winner, James Hillier, will return to Portrush with OMG Racing Yamaha fresh from his successful completion of the arduous Dakar rally during the winter.
Kawasaki will be represented at this year’s NW200 by DAO Racing’s Dean Harrison who claimed a podium finish in the Superstock class last season. Harrison will also add some extra spice to the Supersport field as he partners Richard Cooper in the Boyce Precision Engineering by Russell Racing Yamaha team.
31 years after making his NW200 debut, 14 times NW200 winner, Michael Rutter is set to thrill the north coast crowds in the Superbike races aboard the screaming RCV213-S Honda V4 machine in Bathams livery.
Irish favourites Adam McLean (JMC Roofing), Michael Sweeney (MJR BMW), Mike Browne (Burrows/RK Racing), Jeremy McWilliams (Bayview/ IFS Racing Paton), Paul Jordan (Prez Racing Yamaha and Kawasaki) and Brian McCormack (Roadhouse Macau BMW) will be in the mix across all the NW200 classes.
2019 Supertwin race winner, Stefano Bonetti from Italy and last year’s Twins victor, Frenchman, Pierre Yves Bian, will return to the NW200 grid in 2023 alongside a strong international contingent of competitors from the European Road Racing championship.
Finland’s Erno Kostamo and Germany’s David Datzer, the winner and runner-up of last year’s Macau Grand Prix will be joined. by Optimark Racing’s Matthew Lagrieve from France, Switzerland’s Lukas Maurer, Austria’s Julian Trummer and Kamil Holan from the Czech Republic.
Last year’s leading newcomer at Portrush, Gary McCoy, will also be back on this year’s NW200 grid alongside female competitors, Nadieh Schoots, Patricia Fernadez-West and Maria Costello.