BeerMonster Ducati’s Glenn Irwin made it seven Superbike wins in a row at the North West 200 when he took victory in Saturday’s opening race which was ended early, the race being stopped on the fourth of six laps.
Irwin had been involved in a superb dice with Davey Todd (Milenco by Padgetts Honda), Dean Harrison (DAO Racing Kawasaki) and, initially, Michael Dunlop (MD Racing Honda) but the red flag was displayed on the fourth lap due to a crash at Black Hill; the rider was ok.
Off the line it was Harrison who got the jump off the lights, leading into York from Todd and Irwin, who made a late move up the inside of Dunlop. However, by the time they got to University, it was Todd leading from Harrison, Alastair Seeley (Milwaukee BMW), Irwin and Dunlop, the front five already edging clear of the chasing pack.
By the end of the lap the quintet were already four seconds clear of sixth placed rider John McGuinness (Honda Racing), who led Michael Rutter (Bathams Racing Honda), Mike Browne (Burrows by RK Racing BMW), James Hillier (OMG Racing Yamaha) and David Datzer (MTP Racing by Penz13.com BMW) in completing the top ten.
Back at the front, Seeley took the lead at Station on the second lap, pushing on to University with Irwin, Todd, Dunlop and Harrison in hot pursuit. From here, Irwin on the BeerMonster Ducati Panigale V4 R began to make his play, quickly getting into the lead as the snake-of-five rounded the Magic Roundabout nose-to-tail.
However, by the time they reached the coast road it was all change as Dunlop nosed ahead of Irwin, with Todd and Harrison chasing in what was now a depleted group of four, the result of Seeley slowing on the BMW M 1000 RR due to technical issues.
Lap three and Irwin took the lead going into University with Todd and Harrison still right with him, but Dunlop was dropping back considerably, eventually pulling in to retire at the end of the lap in a race that was rapidly becoming one of attrition.
Starting lap four, Irwin’s lead over Todd was six tenths of a second and the retirements promoted Rutter up the order as he enjoyed a good battle on the road with regular sparring partners McGuinness and Hillier.
Harrison out-braked Todd on the way into the Mather’s Chicane but the red flag was out as the riders came along the coast road and the result declared with Irwin getting the win from Todd and Harrison as Rutter got the better of McGuinness for fourth.
Hillier had to settle for sixth with newcomer Datzer a brilliant seventh ahead of fellow first-timer Browne, Macau GP winner Eric Kostamo and former Manx GP winner Michael Evans.
With injuries having already ruled Nathan Harrison and Lee Johnston out of the NW200, Conor Cummins became the latest withdrawal, the Manxman stopping on the warm-up lap, the legacy of a knee injury sustained during Thursday’s Superstock race.