End of the road for Paul Robinson at North West 200
The chequered flag has fallen on 125cc racing at the North West 200 and the final man to cross the line is far from pleased with the decision.
Paul Robinson won an emotionally-charged event last year at the Triangle circuit, but the decision to axe the race from next year’s race programme has hit the Ballymoney man hard.
For a specialist in this class, it is effectively the end of his participation in his home race, where tears flowed last year as he achieved his chief riding ambition — to win a race on the circuit where his father, Mervyn, lost his life in 1980.
“It seems to me the 125cc class was an inconvenience to the organisers and they have axed us from the meeting,” fumed Robinson.
“This decision has left me with no class to race in at next year’s North West.
“It would be near impossible for me to find somebody to give me a Supersport 600cc machine capable of running inside the top 10 for just one meeting, as I would not be riding it the rest of the year.
“Yes, maybe the class did struggle last year with entries, but who knows with a bit of effort it may have bounced back next year. Now that it has been dropped it will not be back.
“I can’t see the reasoning for it other than that the five-race rule introduced a number of years ago has killed off the 125 and 250cc classes as the likes of say Ian Lougher, Michael and William Dunlop have to drop a main class to ride in the 125’s and most don’t want to do that.
“To have won the final 125cc race at the North West has mixed emotions for me as yes, it is a nice accolade to have under my belt, but I would have liked to have won more.”
Robinson first raced at the meeting in 1996 and has not missed a year bar 2001 when the meeting was cancelled because of the Foot and Mouth agricultural epidemic.
He finally tasted the victory champagne last year with an emotional first win at the event, 30 years after the death of his father following an accident at Mathers Cross during the 1980 North West 200.
“It will seem strange not taking part next year as the North West has been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember,” he added.
“I certainly would have no interest in being there just to watch and will probably just stay at home and watch the races behind the red button.”
The 125cc class first ran at the North West in 1959, a race won by Tommy Robb, then dropped until 1990 although a one-off 200cc race ran in 1973 won by Jackie Robinson.
The late Robert Dunlop was a five-time winner of the race since 1990 with his son William winning the 125cc race in 2009.
William, the current 125 and 250GP road race champion also gave his views on the decision to axe the class.
“There was something of an inevitability about it and that’s the way it had to go, as the organisers appeared not to want us anymore,” he commented.
“In my opinion it seems as if the class was sacrificed to make more practice time available for the big teams.
“I suppose most people who attend the North West are only interested in the big bikes and only 19 entries last year did not help the class.
“It’s strange how the national race at Armoy can attract over 20 starters and an International event just had 19.
“It is a real shame that two-strokes, bikes on which I started racing on and which I really enjoy racing, will not feature at the North West next year.”