North West 200: BSB rider James Ellison to make debut at Triangle circuit in 2020

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BSB rider Ellison prepares for NW200 debut

British Superbike Championship regular James Ellison is to make his road racing debut at the North West 200.

The 39-year-old Cumbrian will compete at the international event in May.

The former MotoGP rider was one of 10 newcomers who were shown around the Triangle circuit this week to prepare for making their bow.

"The North West is something that has kind of appealed to me but I've never been able to commit to it before now," Ellison told BBC Sport NI.

"It's just a perfect opportunity this year. Every other year I've been focused on BSB, World Supersport Championship or MotoGP and it literally absorbs all of your time.

"This year I've haven't committed to any championship apart from the World Endurance which opens up a bit of time to do other things."

Peter Hickman on the way to winning Superstock Race 1 at last year's North West 200
Ellison has been a regular competitor against Peter Hickman in the British Superbike Championship

Ellison will 'pick brains' of BSB rider pals

Ellison will compete for Powerslide Motorcycles alongside team owner Brad Clarke, who will also race.

"Brad's doing the North West 200 this year," Ellison said, "and when he said he was doing it, I said that I would come and mechanic for him. I'm a fully qualified motorcycle mechanic as well. And he said: 'Why don't you race?'"

Ellison added that he has had a hankering to sample North West 200 action since riding alongside Marty Nutt, son of former clerk of the triangle course Billy Nutt, in the same European Superstock Championship team.

"Marty and his dad invited me over to the 2001 event but the event didn't take place because of foot and mouth - although I was over here when it was supposed to take place," he said.

Ellison is good friends with regular North West 200 competitors Peter Hickman and David Johnson and says he will be "picking their brains" in the build-up to the Northern Ireland event.

"I've beaten those guys before Hickman Glenn Irwin on short circuits before but over here they've got way more experience than I have," he said.

"I won't be coming over here with too high of an expectation. All my World Supersport and MotoGP experience goes out the window here. I know I'm going to have to start from scratch."

Ellison hit 212mph on MotoGP bike at Estoril

Ellison's only previous racing appearance in Northern Ireland was at the Sunflower Trophy short circuit meeting at Bishopscourt back in 2010.

In a distinguished track career, he has also ridden in World Superbikes, World Supersport, World Endurance Racing, and was a two-time European Superstock champion in 2000 and 2001.

His highest finish in the British Superbike series was second overall in 2009, while he finished third in both the 2015 and 2016 BSB championships.

Ellison's career includes reaching a speed of 212mph on a MotoGP bike at Estoril.

He said: "I've [also] crashed at 186 mph in a straight line so the speeds won't be anything new to me. It's the trees and the lampposts and the kerbs that will be new.

"But the prospect of racing at the North West doesn't daunt me at all.

James Ellison speaks prior to competing in the MotoGP event at Phillip Island in 2012
James Ellison during his MotoGP career in 2012

"It's got different things on the outside but it's a circuit. It's got an apex, braking markers an exit point - that's it. And I'm riding a motorcycle which is something I've done for the last 26 years."

Ellison rode the first part of last season with the Smith's Racing team on a BMW, before concluding his campaign with the OMG Suzuki outfit, who are now also running BMW machinery.

Four-time winner Glenn Irwin, TT star Hickman, Australian Josh Brookes and Nottingham's Richard Cooper, who finished runner-up in the second Superstock race on his debut last year are among the British Superbike Championship regulars who have raced at the Triangle Circuit in recent years.

Other riders intending to compete at the North West for the first time in 2020 include Republic of Ireland rider Michael Browne, American Chris Sarbora, Austrian Julian Trummer, Wayne Bourgeais of France and Polish rider Krystian Paluch.