Belfast Telegraph

North West 200: Never on a Sunday

By JIM GRACEY

Transport Minister Danny Kennedy and North West 200 road race organisers have moved to allay concerns that flexible, new road closure legislation brought in by the Minister, is a step towards introducing Sunday racing by stealth.

The law changes passed in the Stormont assembly allow for Sunday racing to take place.

They were fast-tracked by Minister Kennedy, delivering on a promise he made to ease road closure restrictions after he witnessed first hand the large scale disappointment and financial loss caused by last May's second freak weather abandonment of the North West in the last three years.

The legislation applies principally to our four main public road events, the North West and Ulster Grand Prix motorcycle races and the Circuit of Ireland and Ulster car rallies.

All can now apply to move their fixed dates forward or back by two days when bad weather threatens. Technically that would allow North West organisers to seek the Sunday option, likewise the Ulster Grand Prix.

But the prospect of Sunday racing clashing with church services along the 8.9 mile Portrush-Portstewart-Coleraine track at the North West proved the single most concern expressed by local residents in the public consultation process.

That led Minister Kennedy to issue this assurance through the Belfast Telegraph: "Neither the North West, nor motorcycle racing in general, have sought Sunday racing at any time in their long history and I do not envisage any circumstances where that situation would change. There simply isn't the desire for it."

Such flexibility this year would have allowed the North West organisers to run on the Friday, knowing from precise weather forecasting data that freak conditions were likely on the Saturday.

Race Director Mervyn Whyte also confirmed Sunday racing as a non-starter.

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