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Maidstone’s Steve Mercer is aiming to be a real ‘Firestarter’ at this year’s Vauxhall International North West 200 on board Prodigy frontman, Keith Flint’s Suzukis. The Kent rider will race TAS-built Superbike and Supersport spec Suzukis plus an ex-Guy Martin Superstock GSXR in the rock star’s Team Traction Control squad in his third visit to the north coast venue.

“A lot of people think that because I’ve done a lot of my road racing in Ireland that I’ve plenty of experience at the North West.” the 31 year old explained.

“I have been at Portrush just twice before, in 2010 and again last year, but I’ve never raced because the meetings were rained off so I am hoping that the organisers will still class me as a newcomer in 2014!”

After serving a decade long racing apprenticeship that has seen him win the Scarborough Spring Cup in 2010 and take a third place overall in the Superstock class of the World Endurance championship in 2013 with the Penz 13 BMW squad, Mercer feels his time to make his mark has now arrived.

“It feels like I have been building up to here and now this is a massive chance for me.” he says.

“I’ve got really good bikes this year and a really experienced team behind me. I am training every night of the week to get fit for the new season.”

The Kent rider admits that there is a bit more pressure for 2014 but he says that none of that comes from his famous team boss, who Steve describes as “just a normal bloke.”

“I went to see a Prodigy gig at the Brixton Academy and I got chatting to Keith afterwards.” Mercer explains. “When he is on stage it is surreal, he is a crazy rock star, but in the paddock Keith is a completely different person!”

“He has raced himself and he knows racing.” Steve says. “There have been times when I’ve fallen off and smashed the bike and I’ve been a bit worried about going back to the paddock but Keith always says not to worry and makes me feel comfortable.”

Race fans will have plenty of opportunities to meet the Prodigy star at the North West as Flint is scheduled to take part in lots of events during race week including judging Miss North West and the Meet the Riders day in Coleraine.

His race squad will begin testing in Spain in March followed by race outings in the Superstock class for Mercer at the opening BSB meetings at Brands Hatch and Oulton Park before his trip to the 8.9 mile Triangle course on May 17.

“I need to get the first practice out of the way before I will know what to expect.” Mercer says of his North West hopes.

“I still haven’t done 200 mph through the speed trap so I really want to do that and I think I can be in the top ten, maybe top six, in every race but they are all really quick lads so I will have to be trying my hardest.”

“Steve is an experienced competitor and it will be good to have him back on the grid at the North West 200 in May.” Event Director, Mervyn Whyte, MBE, says.

“Steve’s team boss, Keith Flint, is passionate about his racing and we really appreciate his commitment in bringing a new team with top class machinery to our race.”

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