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Phillip McCallen wants six of the best at the North West 200

By Paul Lindsay

Published 08/10/2015

Leading man: Philip McCallen in his pomp racing at the North West 200 in 1999
Leading man: Philip McCallen in his pomp racing at the North West 200 in 1999

Phillip McCallen, now a pundit with BBC Sport NI, firmly believes six races in a day would be possible at next year's North West 200 - now that Event Director Mervyn Whyte and his team have plans to 'polish up' the May showpiece for 2016.

The Portadown man is the only rider ever to have won five races in a day at the famous International North West 200 triangle.

And with the recently announced changes that will see smaller grids and less time between races, the former factory Honda racer also thinks it time to put the fans first.

"The plans that Mervyn and his team have made to abolish the grid interviews between sighting laps and racing, is a great idea," said McCallen, who is also in favour of a tighter criteria to actually get on the grid at the international events.

"The leading riders have made complaints about a number of things at the North West over the years and one, which is obviously a safety issue, is catching slower riders," said McCallen, who has 11 wins around the circuit.

"No one wants to see anyone refused an entry, but it's an international event and it should have the elite riders on the grid."

Not one to mix his words, he added: "Smaller grids also means less waiting time between sighting laps and racing. This will reduce the chances of tyres going cold and so much hanging about open up the opportunity of an extra race."

McCallen's opinion certainly differs to most others, with riders and teams continually trying to reduce the number of races at the North West 200, but he disagrees.

"They used to run six races in my day on a Saturday; the first race started later and the last race finished earlier, so what is the problem?" was the question he delivered

to the current team in charge.

"People need to get value for money and a day's fun out of it. There has been too much hanging about in recent years and it has probably put people off attending. The North West 200 is a superb event with some of the best facilities around, but we need to start getting the big crowds back," said McCallen, speaking passionately about his local event.

Just last weekend the former British Supercup competitor was at Silverstone to watch our local talent in action, and he was well impressed. "I think we have a great bunch of young riders in BSB, all doing a professional job," he said.

"In my eyes we have always produced top class riders from our wee country, but times have changed," explained McCallen, who has a strong belief that the next generation of international road racing champions will come from the British Superbike paddock.

"You only have to jump on a flight these days to see that half of Ireland is going to watch BSB," he quipped. "Some of those guys like young Josh Elliott are doing a great job and it was superb seeing him win a British title last weekend. Those don't come easy.

"Then we have the likes of Glenn Irwin who also had a win in the Supersport class, and is one of the future stars at the North West 200, as we saw this year," he said of Carrick's hot young prospect, who is on the verge of signing a British Superbike contract for 2016.

In closing, Supermac said: "I'm glad Mervyn and his team are looking at making positive changes at the North West 200. I'm a former competitor and a fan of the event, and I want to see it back on top where it belongs."

Belfast Telegraph

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