After waiting two years to make their Road Racing debut, the RICH Energy OMG Racing Yamaha team has completed an encouraging week on the north coast of Northern Ireland at the 2022 North West 200. The Cannock-based team contested the Supersport, Superstock, and Superbike classes with their rider, James Hillier, and have been rewarded with three top ten results around the triangle aboard their Yamaha R1 and Yamaha R6 machines.
A very wet Thursday night race program saw Hillier take the team’s first road race finish in the opening Supersport race with a strong ride to take seventh in the difficult conditions. A disappointing issue on the sighting laps that neither the team nor manufacturer were responsible for ended any hope of success in the opening Superstock race that concluded the team’s opening evening of action.
Saturday’s packed race program was held in perfect conditions after a week of rain and strong winds. The day started with the second Supersport race and another prospective top ten finish before Hillier tumbled out of the race exiting York Corner. With no time to rue his departure, the former NW200 Superstock race winner was back out on the circuit, hauling his Yamaha R1 to a creditable seventh place under blue skies and climbing temperatures. Once again, the Superstock race was ended before the lights went out as a stone holed the radiator on the sighting lap, leaving Hillier no option but to retire from the grid.
The final race of a busy week was the much-anticipated Northwest 200 Superbike race. Confusion reigned as many riders were withdrawn from the race due to concerns over tyre safety, elevating the team to the front row. As the race got underway Hillier settled into a comfortable fourth place behind Brookes before slipping back to seventh place after a running on at Juniper chicane, battling back to head Rutter on the final lap and taking sixth place at the flag, closing RICH Energy OMG Racing Yamaha’s first road racing event in a positive fashion.
James Hillier: “We’ve had our difficulties this week but overall, I’m really happy with our progress. It hasn’t been easy readjusting to Road Racing after so long away, but it’s been so good to ride fast again. Switching manufacturers with the RICH Energy OMG Racing Yamaha team meant learning a new motorcycle around the Northwest 200 course but I’ve enjoyed the challenge and the team and crew have been exceptional. We’ve learned so much about all three Yamaha machines this week and I feel we’re in a great place for the next event. It’s been a pleasure to see the Northwest 200 return and to see so many fans around the circuit. Thank you to the team, my crew, and to Yamaha Racing UK for all their help in getting us here and completing the week in good shape.”
Paul Curran, Team Principal: “It’s been a mega effort from everyone to get us to the Northwest 200 and I’m really proud of the hard work both James and the team have put in to make it happen. There have been a couple of disappointments with issues beyond our control but to come away from such a fabulous event for the first time with three top-ten finishes is a testament to everyone involved. Thank you to the whole team who put in many long hours to ensure the bikes were in the best shape possible for the races and thanks to Yamaha Racing UK for their continued support.”
Alan Gardner, Team Owner: “I cannot begin to explain how proud I am of every member of the team. Going road racing was always going to give us challenges and the team has met them all head-on. The Northwest 200 is a fabulous event and it’s been a privilege to contest the races here. We’ve been unlucky in a couple of races and fortunately, James escaped unscathed from another, so to finish seventh, seventh, and sixth at our first-ever Northwest 200 is a fantastic achievement. The welcome and the support from the organisers, the staff, and volunteers at the event have been second to none and we thank everyone involved for that. Thank you to the team for their dedication and hard work and to Yamaha Racing UK, whose support has been exceptional throughout the event.”