Birthday boy John McGuinness provided the icing on the cake as the 80th anniversary celebrations of the North West 200 moved up a gear at home on the north coast last night.
Race stalwart McGuinness made a special guest appearance at a Ramada Hotel, Portrush press conference to announce details of the Superbike, Superstock and 600 Supersport races on May 16.
It was a timely visit by the popular Morecambe rider as he celebrated his 37th birthday, just days ahead of the anniversary of the first ever North West on April 20, 1929.
It’s now less than a calendar month to this year's speed spectacular and another fantastic line-up has been confirmed for the Kennedy International event, in association with Coke Zero.
For the first time, three races will be screened live on BBC TV.
McGuinness, fifth at last weekend’s British Superstock Championship at Brands Hatch on board the Padgetts Honda, will run in both the Dewalt and the Black Horse NW200 Superbike races, along with team-mate Steve Plater, a treble NW winner last year.
Also on the grid for both races is North West folk hero, with 12 wins under his belt, Michael Rutter on board the new North West 200 R1 Yamaha.
Both Superbike races have attracted 80 top riders including Lincolnshire battler Guy Martin on the Hydrex Honda who last year picked up second place in the Dewalt Race.
Hector Neill's Relentless Suzuki TAS team will again be represented by those men from down under, Bruce Anstey and Cameron Donald.
Last year Cameron took second behind Plater in the Black Horse Superbike race whilst Bruce was placed fourth and sixth.
Ian Hutchinson rides this year on the Padgetts machines and will be pushing to improve on his 2008 eighth place.
Man of the moment, Carrick's Alastair Seeley will ride under the JMF banner having tasted success by winning last year’s CP Hire Superstock race while evergreen Ian Lougher will compete again on board the Black Horse sponsored machines.
Other top contenders include Ryan Farquhar, Gary Johnston riding the Robinson Concrete Hondas, Hong Kong based Macau Racing Team members Marc Fissette and Rico Penzkofer and newcomer Sandor Bitter from Hungary.
Back, too, are Ballymoney's Adrian Archibald, Scotsman Keith Amor, Denver Robb and Conor Cummins riding the McAdoo Kawasaki.
They all go again in the Superstock Race with Andrew Hutchinson, managing director of sponsors CP Hire, revealing that even in a tough trading climate, association with the North West has been good for business.
Hutchinson said: "As a local company we are proud to say that our profile has been enhanced due to the NW200 which continues to get bigger and better each year."
That view was echoed by the new backer of the first 600cc Supersport race, sports merchandiser Clinton Enterprises.
MD Tim Clinton said: “We've been involved with motor sport for over 20 years and currently produce merchandise for teams such as Suzuki, HM Plant Honda, Hydrex Honda, MSS Kawasaki, the NW200, Coca Cola Yamaha, Relentless Suzuki and rider James Toseland.
In that time I have watched the North West 200 over the years grow into what it has become today — an international global event.”
Competitors topping the list, out of a field of 90 entries, are last year’s double 600cc Supersport winner Steve Plater, Alistair Seeley and Black Horse duo Ian Lougher and Swede Matts Nilsson on board the Team Black Horse Yamaha. Dunlop brothers Michael and William will also line up along with TAS Suzuki pair Bruce Anstey and Cameron Donald. NW200 Yamaha bike star Michael Rutter will also be joining the line-up.
The McKendry Fabrications Ltd 125cc Race has attracted 45 top quality entries and star names lining up on the grid this year are Manx man Chris Palmer who took the runners up accolade last year, Macclesfield rider James Ford, Belfast's Mark Lunney and Olie Linsdell from England. Also on the grid are William Dunlop, Paul Robinson and Darren Burns.
Also in attendance last night and set for his first North West 200 was Ben Wylie from Market Drayton who is set to enter the Superstock and Supersport 600 races. The promising 25-year old achieved sixth place in the World Endurance Championship in 2005 and has held top 10 positions in the 2005 European Superstock and the BSB Supersport championships in 2007.
Clerk of Course Mervyn Whyte MBE insisted: "The line-up and spectator interest the race generates gets better year on year.
"It couldn't happen, though, without the incredible support and goodwill of our hard working team of volunteers, our sponsors, large and small, and in particular the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure who have been invaluable in terms of support and funding to take the North West to an even more professional level, at the same time boosting the local economy."
Click on www.northwest200.org for total race info.