Alastair Seeley goes into this year’s North West 200 with the aim of securing the one win he needs to become the most successful rider ever at the event.
The Carrickfergus rider’s hat-trick at last year’s meeting took his tally of successes over the Triangle circuit to 15, level with the late Robert Dunlop.
“I will just do what I do every year – stay relaxed, enjoy the event and see if I can win some races,” said Seeley.
“It would be great to break the record but it’s not getting any easier.”
The 36-year-old will be on board BMW machinery for the Briggs RAF Reserves team for the Superbike and Superstock races, but will switch to a Gearlink Kawasaki for the Supersport outings.
Seeley will hope to extend a remarkable record of having one at least one race at the international road race meeting for eight consecutive years.
Among his main challengers at this year’s event will be fellow British Superbike competitor, Peter Hickman, who will hope to make up for lost time after missing last year’s races through injury, following an impressive debut in 2014.
Since then, the GB Moto Kawasaki rider from Lincolnshire has clinched maiden wins at the Ulster Grand Prix and Macau Grand Prix, as well as a success in the opening round of the 2016 BSB series at Silverstone.
Yorkshire’s Ian Hutchinson will be joined on the Moneymore-based Tyco BMW outfit by Ryan Farquhar for the Superbike races.
Meanwhile New Zealander Bruce Anstey rides for the Padgett’s Honda team for the sixth consecutive season and could add to his tally of 11 wins over the 8.97-mile course, with his best chances likely to come in the Superbike and Supersport classes.
Aside from Seeley, Northern Ireland’s hopes of a home success in the four-stroke classes are headed by the Dunlop brothers, Michael and William, along with diminutive Fermanagh rider Lee Johnston, assuming he has recovered sufficiently from a crash at the recent Scarborough Spring Cup meeting.
Michael and William boast four wins apiece at the seaside circuit, with Johnston having taken his third North West win last year thanks to a thrilling victory in the Superstock race.
Neither of the Dunlops managed to occupy the top step of the rostrum at any of the international road meetings last season, while Johnston went on to add a treble at the Ulster Grand Prix to his triumph at the North West.
Other English riders likely to figure prominently include 13-time winner Michael Rutter, Honda challenger John McGuinness, Dean Harrison, Ivan Lintin, James Hillier, Gary Johnson and Martin Jessopp.
Conor Cummins spearheads the Manx contingent, in the absence of the injured Dan Kneen who is replaced in the Mar-Train Yamaha team by former MotorGP star Jeremy McWilliams.
Austrian native Horst Saiger aims to become the first rider from outside the United Kingdom, Ireland or New Zealand to win a race at the North West.
KMR Kawasaki duo Farquhar and McWilliams will be among the favourites in the two Supertwins races, having clinched a win apiece 12 months ago.
North West 200 practice and race schedule
Tuesday 10 May – Roads close from 09:15 BST to 15:00 BST for practicing
Thursday 12 May – Roads close from 09:15 to 15:00 for practicing and 17:00 to 21:00 for racing
Race 1 – Supersport (6 laps); Race 2 – Supertwins (4 laps); Race 3 – Superstock (6 laps)
Saturday 14 May – Roads close from 09:30 to 19:00 for racing
Race 1 – Supersport (6 laps); Race 2 – Superbike (7 laps); Race 3 – Supertwins (4 laps); Race 4 – Superstock (6 laps); Race 5 – NW200 Superbike (7 laps)