The Northwest 200, the fabled road races situated on the north coast of Northern Ireland, are steeped in motorcycle racing history. Legends of the sport have cemented their status around the 8.9 miles of the ‘triangle’ that runs from Portstewart to Coleraine to Portrush and back along the coast road. Some riders have revelled in the glory, while some have paid the ultimate price in pursuit of a coveted win at the NW200. The races return bigger and better than ever for 2022 after a three-year enforced hiatus and the anticipation is almost palpable.
We’ve already seen the best and worst of the weather in our short time here in Portstewart; the sunshine of Sunday has given way to strong winds and horizontal rain as the multitude of flags strain against their tethers, the black and yellow BBC Sport NI logos clear for all to see. The event is right on the coast, with a good arm you could almost reach the Atlantic Ocean with a pebble from the paddock, and as such the location sees the weather change dramatically and the forecast is often more akin to what’s going on out the window rather than information from whatever weather app is fashionable at the time.
The 2022 event sees the RICH Energy OMG Racing Yamaha team make their debut at the event with sole rider, James Hillier. The Ringwood road racing specialist and his crew have a wealth of experience at the Northwest 200 and have proven invaluable to the members who are experiencing the spectacle for the first time. Originally a two-pronged challenge, the team is disappointed to see Aussie, Davo Johnson miss out after his heavy crash at Oulton Park in the most recent Bennetts British Superbike weekend. A fractured collarbone and fractured pelvis ended the season almost before it had begun for the popular Adelaide rider and the team wish him well in his recovery.
At the last running of the NW200 races, James Hillier took his maiden win at the event in the Superstock race after a strong showing in the first superbike race aboard the same machine. Hillier pulled out a 19-second lead over the chasing pack for the weather moved in in closing laps forcing the TT winner to ease off before taking the win. A switch in manufacturer to Yamaha is a step into the unknown for Hillier after spending almost his whole career in green. The Yamaha R1 has strengths that will suit the unique triangle layout and both James and his crew will be working hard to exploit those strengths.
Action gets underway on Tuesday with the Newcomer’s lap at 0945 before the team head out onto the circuit with their Yamaha R6 before the superbike and Superstock sessions get underway on the Yamaha R1 machines.