Manxman Dan Kneen put in two superb performances in the two Supersport races at the International North West 200 road races on Saturday, finishing 8th in each around the 8.9-mile circuit. The Marks Bloom Racing rider was never out of the top ten on his GSXR600 Suzuki and the two eighth places were his best ever results at the high speed venue, which links the towns of Portstewart, Coleraine and Portrush.
The first Supersport race was Dan's first event on Saturday and, enjoying a race long dice with Ben Wylie and Ian Hutchinson, Dan kept them successfully at bay and ended the 6-lap race 0.7s clear of Wylie to immediately better his results of previous years. It was a similar story in the second Supersport encounter later in the day where, with conditions again perfect, a strong start saw Dan complete the first lap in seventh place.
A lap later he got pushed back to eighth by Gary Johnson but, lapping quicker than he had done in the first race, Dan was able to stay in touch with Johnson throughout the race and was deservedly rewarded at the end of six hard laps with another eighth place finish, comfortably clear of the battle for ninth.
Dan's other races during the week didn't quite give the same results but he was nevertheless happy with the performance of the GSXR1000 Suzuki Superstock machine. The wet weather for Thursday evening's Superstock race hampered his chances that day while he was forced to start from the very back row of the grid for Saturday's opening Superbike race. The time lost meant that Dan finished in 26th place but his pace would have seen him finish in the top 15 under normal circumstances. The second Superstock race saw Dan run inside the top 15 in the early stages but after he overshot University Corner he was forced to retire and he then opted to pull out of the feature NW200 Superbike race with the Superbikes proving too hard to match for a Superstock-spec bike.
Speaking later, Dan said: "It's been a solid enough day and whilst the results on the big bike don't read great, I was happy with how the bike was performing and I learnt a lot in terms of both set-up and what needs to be done prior to the TT. The Supersport races obviously went well and to finish 8th in both and get my best ever finishes here was very pleasing. I was down a bit on top speed, which made it quite difficult, but the little bike was handling really well and I was happy with how I rode, particularly in the first race where I was able to keep Ben and Ian behind me despite the obvious pressure. I was disappointed not to get a decent finish in the Superstock race but I left my braking a little bit too late and that was pretty much that but we weren't too far away so I'm sure we'll be up there at the TT.
"The North West is such a fast circuit that you really need a Superbike machine to be competitive so I used those races to get in some good mileage on a dry track so it was definitely a case of mission accomplished there. I would obviously liked to have finished more of the races but I got plenty of time in on the bikes and can now get really stuck in to my TT preparations. These opening few meetings have been done with the TT in mind and whilst we've got a bit of work to do, I'm confident we'll be in the running in each class and be able to give a real good account of ourselves."