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NW200 chief Mervyn Whyte already piecing together a quality line-up for 2017

By Paul Lindsay

Published 29/11/2016

Thumbs up: Vauxhall International North West 200 Event Director Mervyn Whyte with Didier Grams, Marek Cerveny and Team Heidger-Motorsport boss Frankie Heidger at the Macau Grand Prix, where he agreed terms for the German team to race at the 2017 Triangle showpiece
Thumbs up: Vauxhall International North West 200 Event Director Mervyn Whyte with Didier Grams, Marek Cerveny and Team Heidger-Motorsport boss Frankie Heidger at the Macau Grand Prix, where he agreed terms for the German team to race at the 2017 Triangle showpiece

Vauxhall International North West 200 Event Director Mervyn Whyte’s recruitment drive for the 2017 May showpiece has begun in earnest, with the early confirmation that Frankie Heidger’s Team Heidger-Motorsport riders Didier Grams, Marek Cerveny and Petr Biciste will all be on the grid in Portrush at next year’s event.

The German squad were signed up during Whyte’s recent trip to the Macau Grand Prix in the Far East, where he was joined by his dedicated course set-up manager John Adams and former North West 200 favourites Steve Plater and Phillip McCallen.

Having secured the services of the German team for the race next year, Limavady-based Whyte said: “Both Heidger and Grams are no strangers to the North West 200, so it’s great to have them back.”

Team boss Heidger added: “For Didier it will be his fourth time at the North West 200 and I have been there the same number of times.”

Grams, the 33-year-old who is famous for his extrovert post-race celebrations, is a four-time winner of the International Road Racing Championship and a former winner of the Joey Dunlop feature race at the Frohburg Road Races.

The German rider, who finished ninth in last year’s Superbike race at the North West 200 on a BMW, will be joined at Portrush in 2017 by two riders from the Czech Republic.

Cerveny, who has been the IRRC Supersport champion over the past two seasons, raced a ZX-R600RR Kawasaki to 13th and 16th places during his debut at last year’s International North West with Heidger’s team.

The experienced 36-year-old finished 17th on his debut at Macau earlier this month.

Fellow Czech Biciste, who will be making his North West 200 debut in 2017, finished seventh in the Superbike category of the IRRC series in 2016.

All three riders will be on Superbike specification BMW S1000RR machinery next May, which is a big commitment in terms of manpower and finance from the German outfit.

Heidger said: “For Marek, the challenge at the North West 200 will be to claim the top newcomer award on a Superbike and Petr wants to get settled into the race.”

The German is confident of a more ambitious result from his star rider Grams, who finished in 11th place in this year’s Macau Grand Prix, which saw a very hot pace at the head of the field.

“Didier can go top 10 easily,” Heidger said.

Whyte added: “We will be delighted to have Frankie and his team back at the Vauxhall International North West 200 in 2017.

“Didier Grams, Marek Cerveny and newcomer Petr Biciste are racers who have a huge amount of experience on circuits all around the world.

“Didier is already very popular with the North West 200 fans and Marek and Petr can also be assured of a warm welcome.”

In other news, the Motorcycle Live show at the NEC in Birmingham is the hotbed for gossip and news going into the 2017 season, and one interesting rumour coming out of the exhibition centre was where 13-time Isle of Man TT winner Michael Dunlop will end up in 2017.

Chased by many and secured by few, the hard-charging, straight-talking Ballymoney man looks set — if the NEC grapevine is correct — to ride a new GSX-R1000 Suzuki for Hawk Racing next term.

Operating under Buildbase BMW in 2016, the team that took Dunlop — son of the late, great Robert Dunlop and nephew of Joey — to a double Superbike victory at the Isle of Man TT, is set to run under the Bennetts Suzuki banner next year having secured a deal to run the Japanese manufacturer’s official UK effort in 2017.

The rumours go on to claim that Dunlop will also keep a BMW under wraps should he not gel with the Suzuki for the Isle of Man TT, while Stuart Hicken’s team are also expected to run a satellite Buildbase Suzuki team in next season’s British Superbike series.

Belfast Telegraph

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