The Quattro Plant Wicked Coatings Kawasaki team enjoyed a sensational day of racing at Saturday’s International North West 200 road races with Glenn Irwin and James Hillier giving them a 1-2 in the Superbike race for Kawasaki’s first victory in the class since 1977.
Their joy was then further increased when Hillier took his maiden NW200 success after leading the Superstock race from start to finish.
The riders were faced with extremely challenging conditions all day with cold temperatures and rain falling on the North Coast of Northern Ireland but they started the Superbike race well in the end with James taking the lead on the opening lap and Glenn tucking in behind on the second.
Opting to use the Superstock-spec Kawasaki ZX-10RR, James extended his lead to 0.8s as he got better drive out of the corners although Irwin was able to close in once he’d got the Superbike up to top speed. Conor Cummins joined the duo at the head of the field to make it a three-way battle for the lead.
On the final lap it looked like James would hold on for his first NW200 win but Glenn had other ideas although it wasn’t until the Juniper chicane that he finally sealed the position. Hillier took his eighth NW200 podium, the fifth time he’s finished in second place with Cummins completing the rostrum in third.
However, James only had to wait a few more hours to finally claim his first victory around the 8.9-mile circuit when he dominated proceedings in the six-lap Superstock race. Taking the lead from the start, his lead at the end of the opening lap was an almost unheard of nine seconds and by half-race distance he’d increased it to 20 seconds!
As the race wore on, the rain began to fall once more and he eased his pace but almost too much as Davey Todd, Dean Harrison and Richard Cooper began to close in. The Hampshire rider had enough in reserve though and duly clinched his maiden NW200 success while Glenn crossed the line in eighth place after dropping back in the closing stages.
With first, second, third and fourth from his four races, James was duly crowned Man of the Meeting to conclude a memorable week for both the 34-year-old and the whole team.
Glenn Irwin said: “It was flat out all the way in the Superbike race and it was nice to have the race with James and Conor as they’re two really good friends and riders who I have so much respect for. We’ve trained together over winter but James was so much quicker than me through Church and Dhu Varren so I knew I had to try something different on the last lap which I did at Magherabuoy.
"I was quicker than him on some parts, particularly through Black Hill and I got a good run through there on the last lap and was able to make the pass. It was an awesome race though and so much fun to be a part of even though conditions were tricky.”
James Hillier said: “I’m delighted to finally get my first NW200 win and to do it in such a manner is brilliant. I didn’t believe my pit board when I saw +20s as I never expected to have such a big lead but conditions were getting worse as the race wore on and I eased the pace slightly which was almost too much as they closed right in but I got the job done and the bike and tyres were faultless.
“I thought the win may have come earlier in the Superbike race when I was again on the Superstock bike. It worked really well there were definitely some parts of the track where it was stronger than the Superbike. I felt really comfortable on the bike compared to the Superbike which I’d struggled a bit with in practice and I can’t really complain about coming second. The top step would have been nice but I’m so pleased for the team that we got a 1-2 and it’s put me in a great place ahead of the TT.”
Pete Extance, Team Owner, said: “It’s been an amazing day for the Quattro Plant Wicked Coatings Kawasaki team and for Kawasaki UK with their first Superbike win at the North West 200 since 1977. Both riders rode a superb race in very tricky conditions and they did an amazing job to bring the bikes home in first and second. In the
Superstock race, James set about his task with an excellent start and, full of confidence after making the right tyre choice, he led from start to finish.
“To open up a 20s lead at the NW200 is unheard of given the quality of field and he took a well deserved victory. I’m so pleased for both riders and they’ve worked well as teammates all year. It’s a terrific boost for James ahead of the TT and also for Glenn going into the next British Superbike round where he’ll be looking to climb back up the leaderboard.”
Hillier now heads to the Isle of Man TT races with Irwin and new team recruit Hector Barbera contesting round three of the Bennetts British Superbike Championship at Donington Park next weekend.