By Kyle White Belfast Newsletter
Glenn Irwin said there could only be one winner following confirmation that he had triumphed in the feature Superbike race at the North West 200 on Saturday in a shambolic finale.
The race was stopped at the start of the fourth lap when newcomer Mike Browne crashed at Juniper. The Cork man was reported to have sustained minor injuries and his Burrows Engineering/RK Racing team said he will be fit for the Isle of Man TT.
Confusion reigned after the red flag incident, with riders and teams enduring a long wait before Irwin was finally announced as the winner.
Fans began to spill onto the roads in an attempt to make their way home when the possibility of a rerun of the race had still not been ruled out.
It was also unclear if the result would be determined based on positions at the end of lap three, when Irwin led over the line, or on the previous lap, when Milwaukee BMW’s Alastair Seeley was in front.
Tempers began to fray between riders and teams as they waited for an announcement, and barbs were exchanged.
During the delay, Irwin said he was prepared to race again if he had to.
“If I haven’t won this race and it’s going back a lap then you can’t call it a race,” he said.
“I’ll go and race again, 100 per cent.”
Seeley, who was told Irwin believed he had won, said: “That would be Glenn for you. We’ll wait and see what they say.”
When the result was made official, Carrickfergus man Irwin celebrated wildly as Seeley’s TAS Racing team looked on, clearly unimpressed.
It was a record eighth victory in succession in the class for BSB title leader Irwin, and his fifth on Ducati machinery for Paul Bird after his first triumph after an epic duel with Seeley in 2017, followed by a runaway double in 2018 on the previous Panigale R bike.
He is now one win away from the all-time record of nine Superbike wins held jointly by Joey Dunlop and Michael Rutter.
The 33-year-old BeerMonster Ducati rider got the verdict by one second after three laps from pole man Seeley, with Dean Harrison third on the DAO Racing Kawasaki.
Michael Dunlop (Hawk Racing Honda) was fourth, with the leading quartet covered by 1.6s.
Double Superbike winner Irwin, who was also declared the winner of the first race after three laps following a red-flag stoppage, said: “We knew that [he had won]. We just had to wait for everyone to bang their heads together and declare it.
“It’s an amazing feeling. From a personal point of view, it’s been a tough week and we’ve had to turn things around. I knew what I wanted from the bike and it’s safe to say I didn’t have that on Tuesday.
“The team changed the bike for me though and it was faultless. It took me a while to understand everything, and I haven’t always been involved in such close battles around here in the Superbike races,” added Irwin, who rode the Panigale V4R he normally rides in the British Superbike Championship in Saturday’s races after struggling with a few issues during practice week.
“That made the slipstream a bit tricky, and all the boys were riding fantastic, so I had to work hard.”
Irwin said his move to slow his rivals through Magherabuoy chicane on the third lap was a key point in the race.
“I tried to slow them up through Magherabuoy to get the jump on them on the way out and that allowed me to open a bit of gap, which obviously proved crucial. I’ve got to say a big thanks to Paul Bird and the team for giving me such a great package and it’s just great to win in front of my home crowd again.”
Bradford man Harrison, third in both Superbike events, was left frustrated after the blue riband events were decided after only three laps of the 8.9-mile course.
It’s always good to get on the podium here and I think we’ve had a decent run,” he said.
“It’s strange, but I felt I had a lot more and I’d have liked more laps to really see what we could do.
“The DAO Racing Kawasaki has improved massively this year, the boys have been working really hard and the results are there for us to see.
“We were sticking with the Ducati in the slipstream down the straight which was nice to see.
“I think the pace was there all week, I just don’t think we had enough laps in the races but I’m feeling good.”
The race had to be restarted after James Hillier came off his OMG Yamaha at Juniper, although the English rider escaped injury.
Honda Racing’s John McGuinness and Michael Rutter on the Bathams RC213V-S were the top six, with Waterford’s Brian McCormack (Roadhouse Macau FHO BMW) and Sam West ((Moto-Hub BMW) the top eight.
Davey Todd (Milenco by Padgett’s Honda) did not line up for the final race of the day after earlier finishing as the runner-up in the first race.