All-time record-holder Alastair Seeley will ride the brand-new Ducati Panigale V4 R for Paul Bird Motorsport at the fonaCAB North West 200 in association with Nicholl Oils in May.
The announcement was made on Thursday night at the official launch of the event at the Lodge Hotel in Coleraine.
Carrick man Seeley, who increased his unprecedented haul of victories around the 8.9-mile Triangle course to 24 last year following a treble, hopes the Italian machine will fire him to victory in the blue riband Superbike races.
The 39-year-old has won four times in the showpiece class at the North West, with his most recent success coming in the first Superbike race in 2017.
Since then, fellow Carrickfergus rider Glenn Irwin has stamped his authority at the event with three straight Superbike wins for Paul Bird’s Ducati team.
The British Superbike contender has joined the Quattro Plant JG Speedfit Kawasaki outfit this year, while Seeley will now line up for Irwin’s former team in an intriguing twist to the narrative ahead of the famous international road race.
The much-vaunted Ducati V4 was showcased in impressive style in the hands of Spaniard Alvaro Bautista last weekend, who bagged a hat-trick of wins at the opening round of the World Superbike Championship at Phillip Island in Australia.
And now Seeley will rely on the exotic race bike to carry him to Superbike glory at the North West, which takes place from May 14-18.
“I am chasing my 25th victory at the North West and I really want another Superbike race win,” Seeley said.
“I know the PBM team will give me a great bike in the new Ducati to help me do that.
“Everyone saw what the Ducati was capable of in the opening round of the World Superbike championship at Phillip Island last weekend and I am very excited to be riding the bike at the North West.
“PBM have enjoyed lots of success at the North West but this is a new chapter in a new book for the team with the new V4 machine,” he added.
“There can be some teething problems with a new bike but hopefully PBM’s BSB riders, Josh Brookes and Scott Redding, will have those sorted out for me before I get on the bike.”
Seeley previously confirmed he would again ride for the EHA Racing team on a Yamaha R6 in the Supersport races at the North West, which is the bike he will race in this year’s British championship.
“Hopefully I will be coming to the north coast with a couple of good performances in the opening two BSB rounds and a good testing programme on the PBM Ducati under my belt,” Seeley said.
“Top speed and good stability are key at the North West and I think I will have the tools to do the job. The new V4 sounds like a MotoGP bike and it will be exciting for everyone to hear it going around the North West.”
NW200 Event Director Mervyn Whyte said he had been working on the deal with Seeley and Paul Bird for several months.
“We have been working on securing this tie-up between Alastair and Paul Bird’s Ducati team for several months.
“Alastair Seeley is the North West’s most successful rider and the prospect of seeing Alastair on board the new V4, locked in a battle with riders like Glenn Irwin, Michael Dunlop, Peter Hickman and Dean Harrison is a mouth-watering prospect that will excite every road racing fan.”