North West’s happy return
The value of the Relentless North West 200 has been brought home to the famous speed spectacle's host borough.
Official estimates from a governmental Economic Impact Survey of the event have put the financial benefit to the area at £4.5m locally and £7m across Northern Ireland from 100,000 visitors over Race Week.
That annual cash bonanza was recognised by Coleraine Council Chief Executive Roger Wilson as he hailed the importance of the race to the north coast triangle that now bills itself as the ‘Home of the North West 200’.
Mr Wilson said: “The North West 200 has been part of the region’s identity for 82 years.
“We’re proud to be one of the key sponsors and supporters of the event, ensuring it continues to thrive and attract thousands of visitors and tourists to our beautiful North Coast region every year.”
He was speaking as two legendary giants of the North West made a happy return to the circuit to mark their respective 40th birthdays as well as an Easter countdown to Race Week which kicks off on May 12.
Honda TT Legends rider John McGuinness, who made his North West debut back in 1994, turns 40 on April 16 and is joined two days later on April 18 by Bathams Kawasaki rider and NW200 stalwart Michael Rutter.
Folk hero Rutter, nicknamed ‘The Blade’, also celebrates the 20th anniversary of his first appearance at the 8.9 mile course in May 1992 and in the past two decades the West Midlands star, now based in Shropshire, has chalked up 21 podium finishes including 12 wins. Morecambe man John McGuinness fist graced the North West in May 1994 and has achieved 18 podium finishes and five wins overall.
The road racing aces were guests of honour, alongside Australian rider Cameron Donald, as Coleraine council hosted a regional launch event at Flowerfield Arts Centre, Portstewart last night when a raft of associate sponors were confirmed, including the Belfast Telegraph.
Also attending were local competitors Ryan Farquhar, Alastair Seeley, Coyles Wright, John Burrows and Adrian Archibald.
This year's first Thursday night racing represents another first for an event forever extending the boundaries of speed and entertainment.
Fittingly the inaugural Thursday Supertwins race will have A first-time North West sponsor in Vauxhall Motors.
Already confirmed for the Vauxhall Supertwin Race is Honda Legends rider Simon Andrews, competing as part of Paul Shoesmith’s Ice Valley BMW team alongside local riders John Burrows on board a Kawasaki, William Davidson, Michael Dunlop and Ryan Farquhar whose team comprises Jeremy McWilliams and Jamie Hamilton. Also on the Vauxhall Supertwin grid is top British Superbike contender James Hillier, competing for the Bournemouth Kawasaki Primo Racing Team, Manx rider Dan Kneen and Dubliner Michael Sweeney. Joining Simon Andrews in the Ice Valley team will be team leader Paul Shoesmith and Crumlin man Stephen Thompson.
Gordon Hannen, Vauxhall Business Development Manager for Scotland and Northern Ireland, acknowledged: “The North West 200 has successfully established itself as one of the top sporting events in the UK and we are very pleased to support the 2012 Supertwins event.
“The quality, energy and international focus of the North West 200 fits well with the Vauxhall brand and on behalf of Vauxhall we wish all involved a safe and successful Race Week.”