North West 200: Daredevil road race proves an irresistible draw
While the North West 200 brings out the best of local road racing enthusiasts, its reputation has spread beyond our shores.
Bolstered by tales of the great Joey Dunlop, it attracts hundreds of European racing fans to Northern Ireland every year.
Joe and Sue Pilmore and Charlie Karen Tomlinson came from Derbyshire early in the morning to secure hotel rooms.
“This is the first time we've come to see the North West,” said Joe.
“We normally follow the TT racing like the Isle of Man races, but we were enticed by the prospect of road racing.”
Charlie added: “We think that road racing is much better to watch than TT racing. It's the excitement and the ‘do or die' attitude that the riders have here.
“There's an added danger compared to racing Moto GP. If you come off here you're in trouble.”
In a male-dominated sport, one Italian woman is determined to make a name for herself.
Simona Zaccardi was making the final adjustments to her machine before heading out for another few practice laps.
“This is my first time at the North West 200,” said Simona.
“It's just incredible here. I have some fun with the other riders because I'm a woman and I joke about with the other guys.
“I am small and my bike is heavy, so it can be hard to handle sometimes.
“When I am on the straight the other riders take over me, but because my bike is smaller I can get them back on the corners. I love racing, but it makes it even more pleasurable for me when I beat the men.”
David and Elain McNairn and current Scottish road racing champion Bruce Burney have come over to support their friend Donald McFadyen, who is competing tomorrow.
David said: “This is my fourth year here and Elaine's first. There's a huge Scottish contingent over here for the weekend.”
Bruce added: “It's different from other types of racing because of the great sense of speed you get from it. It shouldn't be allowed, really. You've got all of the elements to compete with — the wind, the big straights and the chicanes.”
Gary and Randy Van Marsdyke, Gary Von Drummel and Franz Fleuren have flown in from the Netherlands for the weekend.
“The North West is different. It's like nothing we've seen before,” laughed Franz. “It's racing in its best form — back to basics.”
What’s on alongside the racing action...
- Throughout the day the North West Frontier exhibition will be open at Ballymoney Museum in Ballymoney Town Hall.
- From 10am-3pm a vintage and classic motorcycle exhibition will be on display in Portstewart Town Hall.
- From 8pm a charity concert will take place in the hospitality marquee at the start and finish line featuring band Gravity and comedian Conor Grimes.
- At 8.30pm a free concert featuring Meatloaf tribute act Dead Ringer will take place at the Crescent, Portstewart.
- As part of its NW200 celebrations, The Playhouse in Portrush will present AC?DC, the AC/DC tribute act.
- The Crescent will also host a massive fireworks display at 10.30pm.
- From 10am-7pm the roads will close for the North West 200.
- The wrap-up party kicks off at 7.30pm in the hospitality marquee and the bars around Portrush and Portstewart will be putting on plenty of live entertainment.
- Guns 4 Hire, the Guns n' Roses tribute act, will play in The Playhouse from 8pm.
- To wind up the festival on Sunday, a treat for diehard motorcyclists and film-lovers alike. Oz: Around Australia On A Triumph chronicles the journey of Belfast Telegraph journalist Colin O'Carroll and travel writer Geoff Hill as they travel 15,000 miles around the Australian coastline from Adelaide and back on their beloved motorcycles. Showing every two hours from 12pm to 10pm in The Playhouse Cinema.