Alastair Seeley set to be man to beat at North West 200
Alastair Seeley looks set to be the man to beat at this year's North West 200 international road races.
The in-form Carrickfergus rider has four victories to his name, including a Superbike win last year, the first by a Northern Ireland rider since Phillip McCallen in 1997.
The 32-year-old will again be aboard a fleet of Relentless TAS Suzukis in the Superbike, Superstock and Supersport events.
Seeley has started the season well, with a win in the British Supersport class at Brands Hatch and will hope to take advantage of the absence of Honda riders John McGuinness and Keith Amor, who are on World Endurance duty in Spain.
"It would be tough to win all five races in a day and you would need a lot of luck but you only have to look at what Ian Hutchinson did at the TT last year to believe it is possible," said Seeley.
"I tested all three bikes at Kirkistown and everything was very positive.
"I may not have ridden the Superbike this season but it's only six months since I rode it competitively in British Superbikes, so I'm very familiar with it.
"A lot will depend on the weather - if it's wet it could throw things up in the air and make it a bit of a lottery."
Joining Seeley in the distinctive black and white Suzuki colours will be Lincolnshire rider Guy Martin, who is still seeking his first North West win after finishing on the podium four times.
Leading the Antipodean challenge will be Australian Cameron Donald and New Zealander Bruce Anstey.
Both riders have changed teams since last year with Anstey now competing for the Padgett's Honda outfit and Donald representing Wilson Craig Honda.
Anstey will hope to add to his tally of nine wins while Donald has yet to open his account on the 'Triangle' circuit.
Donald is partnered by William Dunlop, a double winner in the two-stroke classes in 2009.
Kawasaki will be well represented among many of the leading contenders this year.
Michael Dunlop will campaign a Paul Bird-prepared Kawasaki in the Superbike and class and rides a Street Sweep Kawasaki in the Superstock event.
The 22-year-old Ballymoney rider switches to Yamaha machinery for the Supersport 600cc class.
Manxman Conor Cummins has made a remarkable recovery from injuries sustained at last year's Isle of Man TT and is fit to take his place on the grid, with backing again coming from McAdoo Kawasaki.
Veteran Welshman Ian Lougher again rides Blackhorse Kawasakis in a bid to add to his eight successes.
Ryan Farquhar will be determined to add to his three wins on his KMR Kawasakis and will hope to bring his outstanding form on the Irish national roads to the international scene.
Stuart Easton showed his ability by finishing second in last year's second Superbike race and he will be a threat on board the MSS Colchester-prepared Kawasakis on which he competes in the British Championship.
Michael Rutter, a 12-time winner and current Superstock lap record holder, will ride the Ducati on which he has performed creditably in this year's British Superbike series.
Unfortunately Ian Hutchinson has been forced to sit out the event after failing to recover from serious leg injuries sustained in a crash at Silverstone last September
The Bingley rider was hopeful of making an appearance on his Swan Yamahas but had to admit defeat last week in his efforts to be fit.
Lincolnshire ace Gary Johnson rides for East Coast Racing and should be a contender for a podium spot following some good displays in the British Supersports.
Among the notable newcomers in this year's field are Englishman Simon Andrews and American Jeremy Toye, who has already shown his road racing ability at the TT.
Tuesday practice -Roads close from 1700 BST until 2115 BST
Thursday practice - Roads close from 0930 BST until 1500 BST
Saturday 21 May - Race order - Roads close 1000 BST
Superbike race one - 6 laps
Supersport race one - 6 laps
Superstock race - 6 laps
Supersport race two - 6 laps
Superbike race two - 6 laps