Two former British Superbike race winners are set to make their debuts at next year’s international North West 200 with Richard Cooper and Tommy Bridewell preparing to tackle the Triangle course.
Cooper, who finished as the runner-up in the Pirelli National Superstock 1000 Championship on the Bennetts Suzuki, and BSB rider Bridewell will be competing at a road race for the first time when they join a stellar line-up in Portrush next May.
Both riders flew into Northern Ireland on Tuesday and were shown around the 8.9-mile course by Rider Liaison officer Steve Plater and Event Director Mervyn Whyte.
Nottingham’s Cooper revealed he discussed making his debut at the event with his Bennetts Suzuki team-mate and Ulster road racing star Michael Dunlop.
“I have asked Michael what it is like and having someone with his experience in the garage is a positive thing,” said the 34-year-old.
“I know that I can count on him to give me honest answers.”
Cooper will remain with Stuart and Steve Hicken’s Suzuki team for 2018 and would ideally like to ride a Superstock-spec GSX-R1000 alongside a Supertwin machine for his maiden outing at the North West.
“Suzuki make a twin and I’ve looked at that as an option and it’s not out of the question,” he said.
“I think it would be better to do two classes as a newcomer.
“I am 34 and I have done a lot of racing in different classes. I’ve ridden in one-make series and European championships as well as BSB and Superstocks. I have learned to be able to ride around problems,” he added.
“I would want to try to take in as much as possible in year one but it would be hard to say whether or not I might make the top ten or not.
“I know what I am capable of and I know who is competitive at the North West. I know who I can run with on the short circuits and I want to come to the North West and do myself justice, not just make up the numbers.”
Bridewell, who rode for Northern Ireland’s Tyco BMW team in 2015, has been competing in the BSB championship since 2009.
The 29-year-old has long considered making the transition to the roads and following in the footsteps of leading British championship riders who have been successful in both disciplines, such as seven-time winner Plater, all-time record holder Alastair Seeley and more recently Josh Brookes, Peter Hickman and Glenn Irwin.
“It has always been in my mind to have a go on the roads,” he said.
“I know quite a lot about the North West because I visited here in 2015 and I am friends with Martin Jessopp and Ian Hutchinson.”
Bridewell is coming off the back of a frustrating season in BSB with the WD-40 Kawasaki team and is now chasing a deal for next year that will enable him to combine his roads debut with the British championship.
“I want to integrate riding at the North West with my Superbike plans in 2018. My main focus is becoming BSB champion but I definitely want to come and race the North West,” said Bridewell.
“I wouldn’t be coming to the North West trying to win or even to make the top ten in my first year.
“I love the North West atmosphere though and I wouldn’t be worried about results as long as I was enjoying it. If you enjoy it then you can get sucked along and maybe get into a group and then you never know what will happen.”
Rider Liaison officer Plater said the experience behind both riders will stand them in good stead for their roads bow.
“Tommy and Richard have lots of racing experience. They have been attracted to the North West to make their roads debuts here because they like the approach and the lack of pressure, plus there are plenty of people here to offer them support,” he said.
“It is great news for the North West 200 fans to have two riders of the calibre of Tommy Bridewell and Richard Cooper wanting to come to race at Portrush.”
North West chief Whyte added: “Josh Brookes, Peter Hickman and Glenn Irwin have all made their mark at the North West in recent seasons and there is no reason why Tommy and Richard can’t do likewise.”