Belfast Telegraph

North West 200 revs up a Super charge

By Jim Gracey

The North West 200 is back on the grid with a fresh look and new sponsorship deal.

Relentless Energy drink is backing the famous north coast race for a further two years with the announcement today of a renewed brand partnership boosting the North West's position as Ireland's top outdoor sporting event.

This year’s Race Week was also confirmed as running from Sunday, May 15 with a series of events building up to Saturday, May 21 race day with a compacted five-race programme, the idea being less is more.

Top riders welcomed the new format, with the sadly undersubscribed 150 class dropped, as the basis for a supercharged day’s racing with the big bikes centre stage.

That hope was echoed by race technical director Mervyn Whyte who insisted: “The dynamic spirit of Relentless encapsulates everything that the North West 200 stands for and I'm delighted that the Relentless Energy team will support our event until 2012.

“It's been an excellent partnership to date and we look forward to working alongside the team over the next two years, creating improved race programmes and drawing high-calibre competitors from all over the world as well as here on the island of Ireland.”

Philip Neill’s Moneymore-based Relentless Suzuki team were naturally to the fore at today’s launch in Belfast’s high-class Merchant Hotel, packed with leading riders and bike people.

Neill’s Suzuki by TAS Racing partnership, Guy Martin, from Lincolnshire, and Carrick’s Alastair Seeley, are set to compete in all five races.

Team boss Neill said: “Alastair is one of a new crop of North West 200 heroes and his amazing performance last year as the first local rider to win a Superbike race since Phillip McCallen in 1997, will put him in pole position for a podium place in 2011.

“Guy, of course, is an out and out road racer and the duo perfectly complement each other, giving Relentless Suzuki a dynamic and highly competitive North West team. We're certainly looking forward to May 21.”

Twelve-times North West winner Michael Rutter, the first rider to break the 200mph barrier there in 2005, headed today’s guest list alongside Ballymoney riders Adrian Archibald and William Dunlop and Hawick rider Stuart Easton. Also present was local rider Kirk Jamison from Greyabbey who will make his North West 200 debut.

The 30-year-old has been competing on the short circuit scene for the past decade and in 2011 will realise a long time ambition to take part in the North West 200.

In the Superbike class Kirk will be on board the Jim Angus Contracts BMW and in Supersport will ride for Mar-Train Racing.

Record-breaker West Midlands ace Rutter aims to ride in the Superstock and both Superbike races and hopes to announce team details within the next few weeks.

British Superbike rider Stuart Easton has been a North West regular in recent years and will be competing under the MSS Colchester Kawasaki banner. Easton broke Rutter's speed trap record by achieving 204mph on last year's Tuesday practice night. Easton will compete in at least three races and may ride in all five. He said: “I was delighted with my performance last year and hope to go one better in 2011 by claiming a first place podium.”

Sports Minister Nelson McCausland also attended the launch and wished organisers Coleraine & District Motor Club well for 2011 saying: “In addition to being

one of Northern Ireland's largest sporting events, the North West 200 is a fantastic spectacle for all who enjoy the excitement, skills and thrills of road racing.

“The North West continues to attract participants and spectators from across the world and are a great demonstration of how sport can contribute to promoting Northern Ireland's image at home and abroad.

“Safety of participants and spectators is, of course, of utmost importance and over recent years my Department, through Sport Northern Ireland, has worked closely with the Coleraine Club and its partners to help put in place measures and arrangements to improve the safety of all concerned.”

Safety funding has also been provided by the 2&4 Wheel Motorsport Group who are set to provide further support in 2011 in the form of additional safety bales and barriers.

Chief Alan Drysdale said: “We are pleased to continue our support of the NW200 as well as other race meetings. We work hard to help organisers to further improve safety and look forward to a thrilling but safe day of racing.”

Motorcycle Union of Ireland (Ulster Centre) President Chris Blair added: “It’s wonderful to see the North West 200 go from strength to strength. It’s managed by a very capable and forward thinking team and we once again wish all involved a safe and very enjoyable day.”

Belfast Telegraph

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