Belfast Telegraph

Revamped NW200 'will rival Isle of Man TT festival'

BY CLAIRE WILLIAMSON

Plans to save motorcycle road-races from becoming a wash-out in the future could also lead to Northern Ireland's North West 200 rivalling the Isle of Man TT, an MP has said.

Motorcycle fan and biker Ian Paisley Jnr suggested the Co Antrim races could evolve into an extended festival for petrolheads.

He was speaking after Transport Minister Danny Kennedy revealed that his plans for new laws which would allow road races to be re-scheduled had received widespread public support.

Tens of thousands of people attend events such as the NW200 and Ulster Grand Prix each year in Northern Ireland – but are often left disappointed when they are called off due to unpredictable weather.

The 'North West' is a major tourist attraction and generates millions of pounds for the local economy.

But the second cancellation in three years of the race due to severe weather conditions has disheartened fans, organisers and local businesses.

It prompted Mr Kennedy to launch a public consultation in July for legislation that would allow races and practice sessions to be moved forward or deferred if bad weather was anticipated.

He said the rescheduling of a race would only take place in exceptional circumstances.

Mr Kennedy said he hopes to provide a solution in time for the 2014 season.

One politician looking forward to the new laws passing is North Antrim MP Mr Paisley.

"I would welcome any of the things that would allow for practical changes and improvements both to the circuits and to how the event can be managed," he said.

"But the issue is if we can do a Thursday night race, and Friday and Saturday it will allow for racing over two or three days and it will become an Isle of Man TT-style festival of speed over a longer period of time and that will generate even more money in to the locality."

While there had been objections to road racing on a Sunday, Mr Kennedy said the Bill does not preclude Sunday racing.

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