Belfast Telegraph

Daytime practice is a new dawn for North West 200

By Paul Lindsay

A first daytime practice has been agreed for this year’s Relentless International North West 200 road race spectacular.

The switch from the traditional Thursday night practice, will take place after extensive talks with local residents, businesses and farms on the nine mile Portrush-Portstewart-Coleraine circuit.

It could not happen without their co-operation and represents a major safety boost prior to the May 15 showpiece, Ireland’s biggest outdoor sporting event.

The Thursday, May 13 practice will see roads closing from 9.30am, after the morning rush, through to 3.00pm.

It’s a move that has been well received by race officials, team managers and top riders alike, allowing the promoting Coleraine & District Motor Club to run the final qualifying sessions, in similar daytime conditions to that of Race Day Saturday. This is a major move forward, and the local community are to be commended for their flexibility in allowing one of the world’s leading motorsport events to advance their safety strategy this year.

There will be no change to the opening practice session on Tuesday, May 11, with roads closing at 5.00pm, re-opening at 9.30pm.

A special helpline will be set up for local people requiring access during the Thursday practice times on 028 70 355800.

Race director, Mervyn Whyte explained: “Our NW200 management team is proud of the event’s continued growth and development but are mindful that safety must always be our top priority.

“Lack of practice time has been a major concern, and with these new sessions, we hope to facilitate all riders and ensure they gain as much experience prior to Race Day.

“Whilst star riders compete in the North West 200, year on year, the race continues to expand and attract new riders, so it is vital we offer these competitors a safe and secure practice session to build up competition speeds.”

Unlike enclosed circuit racing, the NW200 relies heavily on local communities and businesses to facilitate the event over a week long period every year in May.

Mervyn Whyte again paid tribute to the circuit residents for their continued patience and tolerance, saying: “As always we try to minimise inconvenience as much as possible and we do appreciate the support we receive from local people.

“The North West 200 generates £8 million for the local economy, stimulates tourism and presents extremely positive images of the North Coast region and Northern Ireland in general to potential visitors worldwide.”

HM Plant Honda rider Steve Plater, a multi-NW200 winner, echoed the aforementioned sentiments, saying: “Seasoned riders will be more relaxed and less likely to make mistakes whilst rookie riders will have additional time on their own to get to know the course during daylight hours.

“I believe it’s a very professional approach and provides a much safer competitor environment.”

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