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Difficult North West 200 meeting but solid results for McGuinness

John Freeman
Photo: Mark ‘Wally’ WaltersMorecambe’s John McGuinness scored two top seven finishes at the International North West 200 road races this week but poor weather conditions affected the race schedule throughout and ultimately saw practically Saturday’s entire schedule abandoned. Torrential rain meant that it simply wasn’t safe for racing to take place leaving everyone connected with the event both frustrated and disappointed.

Tuesday’s first qualifying sessions saw the best weather and John was well to the fore as expected in all of them, none more so than in the Supersport category where he took pole position on the HM Plant/Padgetts Honda.

Needless to say, John was in confident mood although Thursday’s races were made tricky by the wet, but drying, conditions. A superb start to the five-lap Supersport race saw him grab an early lead although by the end of the first lap he’d been pushed back down to fifth.

As the race wore on, it was clear the riders on intermediate tyres were in better shape than those, like John, on full wets but he was able to bring the bike home in a solid seventh. The six-lap Superstock race, which got underway at 8.15pm, saw the best of the weather with the sun shining and 90 per cent of the circuit dry but it proved less kind to John and he was forced to retire at two-thirds race distance.

Photo: Mark ‘Wally’ Walters
A day of sun and cloudless skies on Friday was replaced by torrential rain on Saturday’s feature race day and the second Supersport race was stopped after three laps before the racing had to be abandoned completely, four races being lost. Despite the treacherous conditions, John put in another solid ride in his only outing and was rewarded with sixth place.

“There was four to five inches of water through the Juniper Chicane section on Saturday and it was like a swimming pool so it simply wasn’t possible for the racing to continue, said John, speaking after the early conclusion of Saturday’s racing. "As fast as the water was being cleared it was re-forming and it’s just such a shame for everyone involved in the event. We all love coming here and we all love riding but safety has to come first at all times, it’s just so frustrating when the non-race day saw such fine weather.

"On the plus side, we did get to complete three races and the bikes were working really well in practice and I was happy with all of them.”

“I put the HM Plant/Padgetts Honda’s on the front row whilst the Honda TT Legends bike was also bang on the pace, I just pulled in a lap too soon otherwise I’m confident I’d have been higher up on the grid. Sadly, we didn’t get to race the Superbike and although conditions were far from ideal in either of the Supersport races, I did my very best and I’m satisfied with sixth and seventh.

"With the loss of Saturday’s races, we’ve missed out on some mileage before the TT but everyone’s in the same boat and I’m looking forward now to the Island. It’s a big event for all of us so let’s hope the weather’s kind and we all have some fast, safe racing.”

• The first practice session for the Isle of Man TT Races, held on the world famous Mountain Course, takes place on Monday 27th May