Bristol-based Dafabet Devitt Racing endured a challenging time in Northern Ireland this week, where they were competing in the International North West 200 road races, but a podium from Ivan Lintin in the opening Supertwin race ensured they didn’t go away completely empty-handed.
Qualifying on Tuesday and Thursday saw clear blue skies and warm sunshine all around the 8.9-mile circuit but firstly Ivan’s Supersport 600cc machine expired on Tuesday with a similar fate then befalling team-mate Steve Mercer on Thursday. That put the riders out of both of the Supersport races and there were further problems on Thursday afternoon when Ivan’s big bike blew up meaning the team had already lost three engines.
Three races were on the programme on Thursday and although Steve was forced to retire from the Superstock race, Ivan brought the Kawasaki ZX-10R home in a solid 13th place after the team did a great job to fit a spare engine in just a few hours.
He was then back out on track in the four-lap Supertwin race although a sluggish start saw him drop back on the opening lap. By the time he’d worked his way through the pack, the leaders had escaped but he worked hard throughout the race and successfully saw off the challenge of Dan Cooper to claim third place and give the team another International road race podium.
The conditions for Saturday’s feature race day had, unfortunately, changed considerably, with overnight rain leaving the course damp and grey skies were overhead all day. It led to a number of delays in the schedule with the Superbike race being cut to four laps and not getting underway until 3pm. Ivan was well on course for a top twelve finish until a huge moment coming into the start and finish chicane forced him down pit lane and out of the race.
Despite the scare, he regrouped in time for the Supertwins race only for another engine problem to force him out and that just left Steve’s outing in the Superstock race to gain another result. That’s exactly what he did when, despite his limited track time, he lapped at 118.310mph to finish in a strong 11th place, only six seconds adrift of sixth place.
Ivan Lintin: “It was a tough meeting for all of us with a combination of engine issues affecting us on Tuesday and Thursday and then iffy weather conditions coming into play on Saturday but on the plus side, it was nice to get another podium in Thursday’s Supertwin race. I made a bit of a poor start as we’d fitted a new gearbox so that’s something I need to improve upon but the race itself went ok and it’s always satisfying to get on the rostrum at an International road race. Conditions on Saturday were never wet or dry and I gave myself a bit of a scare in the Superbike race but we’re all in one piece and I’m looking forward to the TT now.”
Steve Mercer: “There were certainly a few ups and downs for all of the team this week but for me personally, there are a lot of positives to take away. My experience at the North West is quite limited and I didn’t get a lot of track time during the week but when everything went right, I felt really good and comfortable on the ZX-10R. Saturday’s Superstock race was an awful lot of fun and I was running with riders who finished on the podium but when Jamie Coward’s bike blew up on the final lap going into University, I had to back off. It dropped me back to 11th but my speeds were good and we were very competitive so it’s put me in a good frame of mind for the TT.”
Ben Constable, Team Co-owner: “It’s certainly been a tough meeting for the team to have four engine blow ups – three before the races had even started – and it gave us a major headache. It’s a really tough circuit on engines and, unfortunately, it was our turn to suffer this week but it was good to see Ivan get another podium in the Supertwin class. He rode a smart race and with further improvements to the bike, we’re quietly confident with our TT chances.”
“On Saturday, the conditions were very mixed and that makes it difficult for everyone particularly with tyre choice and then with an oil spill as well, it’s hard for the riders to go out in those conditions. Wet roads and 200mph Superbikes isn’t a good mix and we’re not a team to go and force our riders to go out and ride so we respected their decisions and supported them all the way. Steve had a good ride in the Superstock race so that, along with Ivan’s rostrum, made up for the problems so we’ve now got a busy two weeks ahead of us to get everything ready for the TT.”
The team now have two weeks to prepare for the Isle of Man TT Races with practice around the 37.73-mile Mountain Course getting underway on Saturday 27th May.
Pictures by Stephen Davison – Pacemaker Press International