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Author: Helen Pask
Posted on: Sunday, May 18 2008

First race on the agenda in a busy day of racing for the Woodhall Spa ace was the DeWait Performance Tools Superbike race run over five laps of the 8.966-mile Triangle Course that runs on public roads between the towns of Portrush, Portstewart and Coleraine.

After encountering a few stability problems in qualifying, Plater started the race from a second row grid position but the warm up lap threw up some very different problems.

“I was going through Black Hill towards Juniper on the warm-up lap when a hare ran across the road in front of me. I missed it so it can count itself lucky, where I come from that’s dinner!” he laughed.

By the end of lap one he was in fifth place but up with the leading group. He was batting with Michael Rutter for third throughout lap two but Rutter eventually got the better of him and edged further towards the front.

As they crossed the finish line there was only a second separating the first four riders with Rutter taking the win from Guy Martin and John McGuinness and Plater just two tenths of a second behind in a very close fourth place.

Next up was the Club SOL Portrush Supersport race and Plater made a start from pole position. He didn’t manage to capitalise on his front row start and lost ground, but was soon back in contention in third place. He fought tooth and nail in a group of seven riders who were all vying for the lead and drafting each other along the long fast straights taking turn about to run at the front.

But going into the final lap it was Plater that had shot to the front ahead of Alistair Seeley, Bruce Anstey and his AIM teammate Ian Hutchinson with Ian Lougher tagged onto the back. The group encountered some backmarkers and Steve was able to break the tow and pull a small gap leaving the other four contenders to chase after him. But Plater maintained his lead and crossed the finish line with a three second advantage over Seeley and Lougher to take his first ever class win at the NW200 beating Bruce Anstey’s existing lap record by nearly two seconds with a lap of 4m 30.792s – 119.197mph set on the last of the five laps.

Later in the day Steve took to the grid for the feature race of the day, The Blackhorse Motorcycle Finance NW200 Superbike race, which he had won in both 2006 and 2007.

Plater made a good start on lap one of six and slotted into second place at University Corner but on the run to Metropole was pushed back to fifth behind Michael Rutter.

But Plater was hungry for the win and on lap two used every inch of the road to blast past both Rutter and McGuinness into third place.

Lap four saw race leader Guy Martin touring with a problem and Plater was quick to take the advantage and take command at the front. He could sniff the victory and tried to put some distance between himself and the following riders but was drafted by Bruce Anstey along the long fast straight on the run towards Metropole.

Six riders were covered by less than a couple of seconds and anyone of them was in for a shout of the win. On the final lap Plater was shuffled back to third place but drafted back past Rutter and Cameron Donald to take the lead and held on for grim life to take the chequered flag for his third successive win in the prestigious event.

Plater had little time for the podium celebrations, as he was straight back out on track for the final race of the day.

But the race was red flagged after the first lap when Guy Martin crashed unhurt at Black Hill. At the restart Hutchinson was first to show his hand and led the field around Bally Sally roundabout. But Plater was in his tyre tracks and forged ahead as they sped towards Metropole. There followed a mighty battle of wits between Plater, Hutchinson Seeley and Steve Brogan all trying to draft each other along the straights. The group were separated by less than 1 ½ seconds with the two AIM Yamaha riders in the thick of the action.

Eventually they were joined by Keith Amor and Ian Lougher and it was anyone’s guess as to the outcome. Hutchinson was seen to slow and retire with a burst water hose leaving the way clear for Plater to head the pack.

As the group hurtled towards the final chicane it was Plater who had a slight advantage and he crossed the finish line to take his third win of the day ahead of Seeley and Lougher.

“That wasn’t a bad day at the office was it?” said a delighted Steve Plater. “For me it was mega as I have some disappointment already this year. I led the Le Mans 24-hour race for the first two hours before we had to pull out with a clutch issue and then led the Albacete six hour race for a while before ending up in fourth place so to get the hat trick today is the icing on the cake. The team has done a fantastic job and given me the ingredients to win the main race of the day so I have to say a big thank you to them.

“It hasn’t really sunk in yet, maybe I need to just get away on my own for a while and think about what I have achieved here today.

Steve will take a short rest before travelling to the Isle of Man to begin his practice for the TT races where he was awarded the Best Newcomer award last year after setting the fastest ever lap by a newcomer around the 37.73-mile mountain course.

Practice begins on Saturday (May 24) and a full programme of racing is scheduled to start the following Saturday May 31st through to Friday June 6.

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