North West 200 legend Mick Grant breezed back into town last night with 80th birthday wishes for the event to which his name will always be linked.
Grant was a Seventies record breaker over the famous North West triangle course on his unbeatable Kwacker.
Now 65, he qualifies for a bus pass around the Portrush-Portstewart-Coleraine circuit.
But back in 1975, he clocked a then amazing 117.49 mph (187.98 km/h) lap record on his Kawasaki, making him the fastest man on British roads.
Grant fought a memorable duel to win the 1975 500cc race from another North West legend, Tony Rutter, and now his son Michael Rutter goes round at 200mph-plus!
"I envy him and all the riders now," said Grant, also a seven-time winner of the Isle of Man TT.
"The race here has changed dramatically since I was competing. Mervyn Whyte and his team have taken the event to a totally different level and I wish I was still racing now to experience it."
Grant, along with present day star Steve Plater, was an honoured guest in Belfast last night as Sports Minister Gregory Campbell hosted a Stormont reception to mark the 80th year of what is now Northern Ireland's biggest sporting and tourism attraction with 150,000 fans set to pour £7million into the north coast economy over the next week.
Sports Minister Campbell also acknowledged the importance of the event in putting Northern Ireland on the world sporting map with BBC Northern Ireland beaming pictures around the globe.
His Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure have backed the North West to the tune of £175,000 over the past three years towards the appointment of Business Development/Operations Manager Laura McManus and the development of the event website.
Minister Campbell said: “During the past 80 years the North West 200 has rightly earned a reputation as a world class event and has helped to establish Northern Ireland as the road race capital of the world.
“Since its inception in 1929, the North West has grown into one of the fastest road races in the world and continues to attract up to 150,000 visitors each year from home and abroad.
“It attracts the cream of current road racers like John Maguiness, Michael Rutter and Steve Plater, to name a few, and, of course, we remenber legends like Mick Grant who raced to glory in the early 70's.
“I would also like to pay tribute to two of the most successful riders in North West 200 history, Joey and Robert Dunlop, who had 13 and 15 wins respectively, and I wish Robert's sons, William and Michael Dunlop, every success with their races this year.”
North West Clerk of Course, Mervyn Whyte MBE responded: “The North West 200 organising team is indebted to the Minister, Gregory Campbell, and his staff for all their support both in terms of cash funding and strategic advice.
"It’s been an excellent partnership with DCAL and we really do appreciate their contribution to the event.
"With their support we have certainly made huge strides creating a bigger and even more professional sporting spectacular.”
To which Minister Campbell replied: “I would like to thank Mervyn Whyte, his team and all the race sponsors for their continuing hard work and support in making this international event happen and, finally, I send my best wishes to all the riders and hope everyone has a safe race.”