Big race to get north West 200's Super Saturday off to flyer
Revved-up North West 200 Race Chief Mervyn Whyte has voiced his determination to deliver a memorable and spectacular start to this month's Super Saturday.
An incredible weekend of sport is in store with the Relentless North West 200, Heineken Cup Final, Champions League final and the start of gaelic's Ulster Championship all blasting off on on May 19-20.
And with no overlap, allowing fans to watch them all up close or on the telly, it promises to be the biggest viewed, most exciting and eagerly anticipated sporting weekend this country has ever experienced.
If that line-up doesn't set your pulses racing, check now to see if you've got one.
And with the Relentless North West speed spectacular first on the grid, Whyte declared: “We have a great incentive to set the scene for a great day's entertainment and hopefully a winning one for Northern Ireland.
“The Tourist Board motto ‘Our Time, Our Place’ is hugely appropriate in terms of the events of the May 19 weekend.
“We at the North West were always keen to put on a show after last year's aborted meeting, when a series of events conspired against us.
“Now the bar has been raised as we hopefully set the scene and the standard not just for a massive weekend of sporting action but also a summer to remember on our north coast with the Irish Open and Milk Cup still to come.”
The North West has always been a flagbearer for Northern Ireland sport and a winner for tourism, too, through the worst and now the best of times.
But Whyte and his team, like the top racers they attract to the north coast roads, know that to throttle back is to be overtaken.
After last year's triple whammy of a bomb alert, freak weather and an oil spill, forcing abandonment, Whyte successfully won local support this year for the innovation of Thursday night racing on May 17.
That, he is confident, will be the benchmark for a rip-roaring Race Day on Super Saturday, finishing in time for the expected 80,000 bike fans to take in Ulster's Heineken Cup final clash with Leinster, kicking off at Twickenham at 5.00pm, followed by Chelsea's Champions League bid against Bayern Munich at 7.45pm.
A pause for breath and then its curtain up on this season's Ulster GAA Championship season as holders Donegal take on Cavan on the Sunday.
By happy coincidence there was a coming together last night of the titans of bike racing and gaelic football as the two sports showcased their big upcoming events in the iconic Titanic Belfast building.
Whyte graciously wished the rugby and gaelic footballers of Ulster well in their quest for glory as the top bikers assembled to begin the countdown to Race Week, now less than a fortnight away.
But, on a personal level, he insisted: “The North West is all about the riders. For me, it will be a triumph if the weather is kind to us, we get a safe day's racing and the crowds go home entertained.”
To that end, specialist machinery has been brought in this year to deal with oil spills, such as that from Ryan Farquhar's machine that led to the red-flagging of last year's jinxed Race Day.
“Some eventualities cannot be legislated for but lessons from last year have been learned. Precautions have been put in place to ensure the fans will be able to enjoy a full day's racing this year, preceded by the taster of two Thursday night races,” said Mervyn.
“It promises to be an enthralling day of sport and we are determined to play our part.”