McCallen's Friday Feelings
It has been a very interesting last two days at the North West. The man of the moment Alastair Seeley was knocked off pole position in the Superbike class with a fuelling problem. As a rider this is your worst nightmare when something mechanical goes wrong with your bike and it is out of your control. There is no doubt with the amount of spare parts and spare bikes the TAS team has at their disposal along their technical ability, that they will have this bike ready for Saturday.
To be honest I wouldn’t worry about Alastair missing out on the Superbike practice because he is already knows this machine and as he proved with his victory in the event last year, he knows his way round the course. From experience I am fully aware that starting from the third row of the grid is not such a problem round here for a good rider, because with the long straights you can pull back a few places with good slipstreaming. I even managed to win from the back of the grid at the North West (many years ago now)!
Phillip McCallen at the NW200 in 1999 (Image: Darren Kidd)
One of our biggest losses this year at the North West is the MSS Colchester Kawasaki team of Stuart Easton and Gary Mason, who were involved in a high speed coming together when Mason’s machine cut out at around 150mph. Gary was taken to hospital as a precaution but thankfully he was released with no major injuries. Stuart is in the RVH at the moment with a fractured pelvis and broken fingers. I know what it’s like to sustain injuries as a road racer, down the years. I’ve had a fractured pelvis myself and a few other injuries including a fractured skull, broken shoulders and broken back. We all wish Stuart a speedy and full recovery.
Just to provide you with a bit of insight into what’s happening in the North West paddock this week. A number of riders and teams have suffered setbacks, which they are working hard to rectify for Saturday. Michael Dunlop is going well on his Superstock machine but still needs the suspension fine-tuned on his Superbike and a few more tweaks on his 600. His brother William is still working on a few minor things on his new superbike, Superstock and 600. Our own Ryan Farquhar, who has no time to get his superbike ready for NW200 this year, is working hard on his Superstock machine which has had a little clutch slipping during practice. He is also trying to get a little more speed out of his 600. Cameron Donald, however, is pretty happy with all his machines.
The veterans Bruce Anstey and Michael Rutter who a few people have written off, showed in practice that they still have the talent to be up at the top end of the grid. Rutter’s team mate Martin Jessopp is demonstrating great potential in his second visit here. Gary Johnson has good machines this year and riding really well.
The crowd’s favourite Guy Martin seems to be struggling a bit to perform at his best here. I’m not sure if that is because he is familiarising himself with the new team and bikes, which he says he is happy with, or if it is because, as some have suggested, he is saving himself for the TT.
With the unpredictable weather conditions there is potential for a lot of different winners tomorrow. Any of the riders I have mentioned all have the capacity to pick up a race win.
Last year Alastair Seeley took my record of being the last Irishman to win a superbike race here 13 years ago. Can he go even further this year and match my North West record of five wins in a day??