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'Freedom' honour now beckons for Mr North West 200 Mervyn

By Nevin Farrell

Plans have been revved up to bestow a top award on North West 200 race chief Mervyn Whyte.

Just days after tens of thousands attended another successful event on the famous Coleraine-Portrush-Portstewart course, a bid will be made to honour the 67-year-old Limavady man with a Freedom of the Borough accolade.

James McCorkell will ask his colleagues on Causeway Coast and Glens Council on Tuesday night to back the award for Mr Whyte.

It won't be the first time he has been honoured for his efforts. In 2007 he received an MBE for his services to motorcycling in Northern Ireland.

Members of the famous Dunlop motorbike racing family - Joey, Robert and Michael - were given the honour by the former Ballymoney Borough Council, which is now part of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council.

A notice of motion to be brought by councillor McCorkell reads: "That this Council bestows the Freedom of the Borough upon Mr Mervyn Whyte MBE, race director of the International NW200 in recognition of his services to the NW200 race and motorsport in Northern Ireland."

In an accompanying citation, Mr McCorkell says: "Mervyn Whyte MBE is a resident of Limavady and is race director of the International North West 200 motorcycle road race. Mervyn has been involved at a high level in the organising of the race for the last 17 years and in that time he has seen it become perhaps the best known road race in the world.

"The NW200 is certainly an internationally renowned event which attracts all the big name racers from across the globe. Thousands of racing fans visit Northern Ireland and the North Coast each year to see their heroes in action.

"It is estimated that some 80,000 fans packed around the 8.9 mile race circuit with many millions more tuning in and logging on worldwide to watch and to listen into this year's race, which was quite possibly the most successful in Mervyn's 17 year reign as race director."

Mr Whyte signed up as a volunteer marshal for the NW200 in 1973 and succeeded Billy Nutt as clerk of the course in 2000.

He then stepped into his new role as race director, and has been the public face of the race for many years.

The councillor added Mr Whyte's "steady hand in guiding the North West 200 through good times and bad has made him one of the best known and admired figures in Northern Ireland sporting circles".

"He is the steady head on race day, the one making all the big decisions and the one who always has the racers' safety and best interests at heart," he said.

In recent days Mr Whyte revealed he was pondering his future after being at the helm for such a long time.

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