Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

North West 200 on a Whyte knuckle ride

This weekend's Bank Holiday British Superbike round at Oulton Park, will be an edgy affair for Vauxhall International North West 200 Event Director Mervyn Whyte.

Despite the North Coast event's opening practice session still almost a fortnight away on May 14, Oulton Park will be a 'Whyte' knuckle ride for the Limavady man, who metaphorically speaking, would much prefer to wrap many of his top stars in cotton wool – as the clock ticks down to Northern Ireland's largest outdoor sporting showpiece.

Laughing at the thought of it, Whyte explained: " Yeah we have big, big numbers of top riders coming out of the BSB paddock these days, to take on the North West 200 challenge.

"I certainly can't wrap them in cotton wool; all I can do is hope that everything goes according to plan and they all arrive safe and uninjured from Oulton."

With last year's North West 200 hat-trick man, Alastair Seeley, currently leading the British Supersport Championship with Gearlink Kawasaki and his main BSS rival Stuart Easton, set to make a North Coast return with Mar-Train Racing there will be no holds barred this weekend for the Wee Wizard.

"Last year on the Superbike was a little bit different as I wasn't right at the sharp end of the championship, but what with leading the British Supersport class this year – I just can't afford to be slacking at Oulton with such a strong field, but of course the North West will be there in the back of my mind. I'll just have to keep it under lock and key until Monday night" joked Seeley.

Surprisingly he added: "There's always a chance you can slide off and get injured riding hard at the front of a championship, but that's a risk I'm prepared to take this year, as I really want another British championship title more than anything else."

In the British Superbike Championship, the biggest name to come out of the class is North West 200 newcomer Josh Brookes, riding for local team Tyco Suzuki with three-time former British Supersport champion Karl Harris also set to make his debut, and I really can't see either of those men slacking at Oulton either.

We must not forget 'Mr North West', 13-time winner at the Triangle Michael Rutter, and 19 times TT winner John McGuinness. Both men will be in British championship action this Bank Holiday weekend, but if any rider is now in road racing mode, it will certainly be McGuinness with Rutter not far behind him counting the 'dinero'.

Others who will have the North West on their mind this weekend at Oulton, will be Aussie sun worshipper Dave Johnson and fellow grooming expert Simon Andrews, who will ride the RAF Reserves Honda on the North Coast.

Add to that Michael and William Dunlop, who are almost guaranteed to make an appearance at the Tandragee 100 on Saturday, and Cameron Donald currently, en-route from Australia – and Whyte has a few adopted siblings to be concerned about between now and May 18 at 6pm.

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