The Quattro Plant Wicked Coatings Kawasaki team head to the first road race of the season this week, with Glenn Irwin and James Hillier set to contest the high-speed International North West 200 in Northern Ireland from 14th to 18th May.
The races celebrate their 90th anniversary this year and will again be held on the 8.9-mile circuit which links the towns of Portstewart, Coleraine and Portrush, with both riders expected to be challenging for the race wins in the Superbike, Superstock and Supersport classes.
It will be Glenn’s first time at the event with the team but he’s no stranger to success at the venue, having won the last three Superbike races there in superb fashion. Indeed, he dominated proceedings 12 months ago to take a double victory and is now looking to do the same on the Kawasaki ZX-10RR.
The Ulsterman made his debut at the meeting in 2015 when he took a stunning second place in the second Supersport race and returned two years later to claim his first Superbike win.
With two rounds in the Bennetts British Superbike Championship now under his belt, the 28-year-old will again contest two races in the Superbike category but also the Superstock class which he’ll contest for the first time. He’ll also ride a Kawasaki for KTS Racing in the two Lightweight races.
Glenn said: “I feel like I turned a bit of a corner with both the bike and my confidence in the second race at Oulton Park last time out, so I’m keen to show what we can do on the Kawasaki ZX-10RR in both the Superbike and Superstock races.
“I’m still relatively new to the NW200, and the number of laps I’ve done compared to everyone else is pretty minimal, so having more races this year will be invaluable and I’m looking to fully utilise all the track time I’m going to get.
“I’ve done more homework and preparation than ever before and I’m learning all the time with the bike so, with the fantastic package the team have given me, let’s see what we can do.”
James Hillier, meanwhile, is back at the North West 200 with the team for an 11th consecutive year and will join Irwin in the Superbike and Superstock races. However, he’ll also compete in the two Supersport races on the Kawasaki ZX-6R.
It was in the Supersport class where he performed best last year with two superb second-place finishes behind Alastair Seeley, the most successful rider in the history of the meeting with 24 wins, following on from a third-place finish in 2017.
The Hampshire rider is still searching for his first victory at the event, but his two podiums of 2018 made it six in total now, while he’s also claimed an impressive 30 top-ten finishes since making his debut in 2010.
James said: “It feels like we’ve had a long wait for the road racing season to finally get underway so I’m raring to get going now. We’ve had a good pre-season of testing both abroad and at the opening two rounds of the British Superbike Championship and I feel that we’ve got as good a package as anyone so feel confident about our chances.
“The Supersport class has given me my best results at the North West 200 in recent years so there’s no reason why we won’t be competitive again this time around and, in the Kawasaki ZX-10RR, we have a great bike for both the Superbike and Superstock classes.
“We’ve got a busy week ahead with practice and six races across Thursday and Saturday but staying with the same team gives me great stability and consistency and we all know our jobs so we’re ready to get stuck in.”
Practice takes place on Tuesday and Thursday with the first two races, for Superstock and Supersport, scheduled to take place on Thursday evening. The second Superstock and Supersport races will take place on Saturday along with the two feature Superbike races.