STEFANO Bonetti scorched to his very first North West 200 victory as he became the event’s first Italian winner in this evening’s Supertwin race.
The VAS Engine Racing Paton rider fended off charges from Jamie Coward and Derek McGee to make history on the North Coast.
One of KMR Kawasaki’s pre-race favourites, McGee powered past pole-sitter Coward off the start before the pack hit Primrose and McGee immediately began eking out a lead as his team-mate McWilliams slotted into third before slipping past Coward.
But heading into University, KTS Racing’s Coward bumped the rear of McGee and sent him slightly wide as the Yorkshireman hit the front. It was a momentary lead, however, as McGee hit the front again into Mather’s Cross.
Michael Rutter, Paton-mounted Stefano Bonetti and former British 125GP champ Christian Elkin soon joined a six-way scrap for the lead while McWilliams slipped into the lead to start the second of four laps in control of the action.
Italian Bonetti powered into the lead on the run to University on lap two but while trying to find his way past, the chasing McWilliams slid onto the grass at Mather’s Cross chicane and hit the deck, ending his hopes of victory.
As the race crossed its half-way point, Bonetti held a 1.758sec advantage and looked to be using the Paton power to keep McGee out of his slipstream, but the Irishman’s hopes of any podium success were dashed when he ran the Magheraboy chichane while fighting for second place with Coward as race stewards swiftly slapped McGee with a 10sec penalty.
And McGee’s race was put to bed for good when he pulled into the pits after hitting the kerb on the outside of the final corner following a hot run in at the end of lap three.
Back at the front on the final lap, Coward had finally caught up to Bonetti and stuck a pass on him, but the Paton rider powered back ahead on the run to Mather’s Cross and held on to take his very first win, while Rutter secured his 33rd podium in third.
Newcomer James Chawke kept his Team ILR/Mark Coverdale Paton ahead of veteran team-mate Horst Saiger and Francesco Curinga to take fourth.
Martimotos man Victor Lopes, Ulster SBK front-runner Carl Phillips, Darren Cooper and Matthew Rees completed the top 10.
*Image: Derek Wilson