James Hillier and the Quattro Plant Muc-Off Kawasaki team enjoyed a solid evening of racing at the International North West 200 road races on Thursday with the Hampshire ace recording eighth place in the six lap Supersport race.
With qualifying on Tuesday held in mixed conditions – the Causeway Coast saw rain, sunshine and strong winds all within the space of a few hours – and Thursday seeing far more favourable weather, James qualified strongly in all of his classes, particularly the Supertwins where he qualified on the front row in second place.
With Thursday evening seeing perfect conditions, the 600cc Supersport race got proceedings underway and, starting from 14th on the grid, a good start saw James move into the top ten immediately. Running in close company with John McGuinness, Conor Cummins, Keith Amor and Jamie Hamilton, positions changed hands regularly and at the conclusion of the six laps, James crossed the line in eighth place for yet another top ten International finish.
The second race of the evening was for the Supertwins race but a technical problem towards the end of the morning’s qualifying session saw the team opt out of the race in order to rectify the issue for Saturday.
That just left the Superstock race, again to be held over six laps, and with qualifying times incredibly close around the 8.9-mile road circuit linking the towns of Portstewart, Coleraine and Portrush, a close race was expected. Running just on the edge of the top ten at the completion of the first race, James was handily placed only for the race to be stopped due to a crash and with the road closing order time running out, organisers opted not to re-start the race and run it on Saturday instead.
James Hillier: “I’m a little bit rusty still as I haven’t been out on the bikes much this year but all of them have been going really well, especially the Superstock bike – it’s without doubt the best Stocker I’ve ever ridden so that bodes really well for the races. I hadn’t ridden the Supertwin bike since last year’s TT but the team have done a bit of work to it and it was flying in qualifying so it was a shame we had a little problem. We’ve another race on Saturday though so hopefully we’ll be able to show what we can do then.”
“I’ve been a bit weak on the brakes these first couple of days so need to improve that for Saturday’s main race day but we’re in the ball park in every class. I’ve been pushing hard but also looking ahead to the TT and making sure we’re in the best possible position when we get there. It’s a shame we lost tonight’s second race but Saturday’s a busy day and we’ve got plenty of chances to get some good results and that’s exactly what we’ll be aiming for.”
Saturday’s schedule sees two Superbike races, two for Superstocks and one each for the Supersport and Supertwins. Roads close at 9.30am.