Martin Jessopp claimed his maiden North West 200 victory on Thursday evening when he put in a superb ride to take the opening Supersport 600cc race. The Yeovil man led off the line and although Ian Hutchinson pushed him back to second, he retook the lead on lap four of six and was never headed again.
“I’m so happy for myself and for the team,” he said afterwards. “We have no big sponsors and everything I do is for them. I made an awesome start just like last year and tried to keep my nose clean although there were some crazy moves going on in the first couple of laps, probably by myself too! No-one touched though so it was good, hard racing and to have finally won one is a huge weight off my shoulders.”
Jessopp grabbed the lead going into York Corner but by the end of the first lap, Ian Hutchinson (McAMS Yamaha) was in front with Jessopp, Michael Dunlop (MD Racing Yamaha), pre-race favourite Alastair Seeley (Gearlink Kawasaki) and Dean Harrison (Silicone Engineering Kawasaki) following in close formation.
The lead changed hands a number of times on the second lap but Seeley was in trouble, slipping back to eighth, and, sure enough he retired at the end of the lap. At the head of the field though, Jessopp led from Hutchinson, Harrison, Lee Johnston (Jackson Racing Honda) and Dunlop. James Hillier (JG Speedfit Kawasaki) was moving through the pack and was up to sixth from eighth.
Third time around, Hutchinson still led as less than two seconds covered the top seven but Jessopp made his move on lap four and broke clear from the pack. By the end of the lap, his lead had shot up to 1.7s with Hillier now up to second from Hutchinson, Hillier, Johnston and Harrison.
The lead was down to 1.2s going into the final lap but although the leading pack closed up, they weren’t close enough to the Riders Motorcycles Triumph and Jessopp duly took the victory by 0.772s with Hutchinson and Hillier completing the podium.
Harrison moved back up to fourth, having the consolation of the fastest lap at 116.425mph, just ahead of Johnston and William Dunlop. Brother Michael dropped back to seventh as 3.7s covered the leading seven riders.
James Cowton (McAdoo Racing Kawasaki) and Jamie Coward (Redcliffe Racing Honda) had a race long battle and came home eighth and ninth with Austrian Horst Saiger rounding out the top ten.