Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 13 July 2014

North West 200 twin track to winning new look

First Minister Peter Robinson pictured along with Mervyn Whyte MBE, Ms NW200 Kathryn Munis and riders WIlliam Dunlop, David Johnston, Alastair Seeley, Michael Rutter, Stephen Thompson, John McGuinness and Michael Dunlop at the launch of the 2013 Vauxhall International North West 200 motorbike races

North West 200 race chief Mervyn Whyte clearly shares the simple philosophy of the top riders he attracts — if you slow down, you get overtaken.

Whyte and his organising team from the Coleraine Motor Club could easily have rested on their laurels after the successful revitalising of the event this year with the introduction of first-time Thursday night racing, ahead of Saturday's main Race Day.

Instead, they have kicked on and added yet another new dimension for next year's North West Race Week, running from Monday, May 13 to the Saturday, May 18 climax.

Two Thursday races this year were given the thumbs-up by fans who turned out in large numbers.

Next year the fans will be treated to three races on the Thursday evening, after daytime practice — Superstock, Supertwin and Supersport — as well as a fresh five-race line-up for Saturday Race Day which will feature another outing for the Supertwins alongside the traditional two Superbike races, Superstock and Supersport events.

Again, the blessing of local residents, farmers, schools and the business community around the Portrush-Portstewart-Coleraine triangle circuit has been paramount in enabling Whyte to take the North West to another level of sporting entertainment.

Present at the Belfast Waterfront Hall launch were First Minster Peter Robinson and Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy, joined by race winners from earlier this year John McGuinness, William Dunlop, Michael Rutter, Ryan Farquhar and Alastair Seeley alongside Michael Dunlop, Stephen Thompson, still recovering from his accident at the Ulster Grand Prix in August, and event newcomer Australian David Johnston.

Recently retired Farquhar won the inaugural Thursday night Supertwin race last year.

A champion of the class, he will be back at the North West next year as boss of his KMR Kawasaki team and welcomed the new format, saying: “It is great to see the North West 200 announcing their plans early and likewise to see two Supertwin races next year.

“I am working hard to put funding together with the intention to run Jamie Hamilton next year. I would also like to have Jeremy McWilliams, who competed for me and finished second in the Supertwin race last year, and another high profile rider on my bikes in the two Supertwin races.

“No, it is not the same as racing, but racing has been good to me over the years and it is good to be able to put something back.”

Local hero Michael Dunlop added: “I only live seven or eight miles up the road and it is great to race in front of my local fans. I only have the one North West win and after a couple of years in which I struggled, I will have to up my game.

“Like most, I have no deals signed as yet for next year. Dunlop is a big name at the North West and it was great to see William get a win back in May. I think it is about time we added a Superbike win to top it off.”

Tongue in cheek Michael added: “I was hoping Mervyn could add a sidecar race next year and John McGuinness and I could fight over who would drive the outfit and who would be the passenger.”

Alastair Seeley, who had six podium finishes back in May for Tyco Suzuki by TAS, including two wins also welcomed the changes, saying: “It is great to come back to ride in a home event. I like the idea of the new race format, as it is value for money for the spectator and great for us as riders with more laps and track time.”

Vauxhall Motors will be the new headline sponsor of next year’s North West, taking over from Coca Cola energy drink Relentless.

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