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North West 200: Special experience will stay with riders forever, writes Philip McCallen

By Phillip McCallen

Published 12/05/2015

Blast from the past: Phillip McCallen on his way to his historic five-timer at the North West back in 1992
Blast from the past: Phillip McCallen on his way to his historic five-timer at the North West back in 1992

There used to be a little newsagents shop at Church Corner in Portrush, right on the North West 200 track, and it was there, on a Sunday morning back in 1992, that I realised that our great sport of motorcycle road racing had experienced a sea change as sudden and dramatic as any you'll see on the Atlantic coast.

The previous day, I'd won five races at the North West, a record for a single day that still stands, and, of course, I couldn't wait to get down to the paper shop to see what the sports pages would say.

Imagine my shock when I found myself not only on the back pages but the front and middle pages as well!

It was a ritual for all the riders to pick up the papers and cut out any articles or pictures we featured in to send to our sponsors. To keep them all happy, I'd sometimes have to buy 10 copies of each paper I was in. I'll never forget the embarrassment that morning of walking out with the biggest bundle ever.

The newsagent and the other customers could see I was buying all the papers with my picture on the front and I was sure they all thought I'd a head the size of Ramore Head.

It took me a few days to get over that but then a sense of pride set in.

Road racing had always been big and the North West was the biggest crowd-puller of them all. But, as riders, we tended to be tucked away on the inside sports pages, behind the ball sports.

Now the mainstream news and sports media have woken up to the appeal and entertainment value of road racing and, in particular, the North West... 23 years on, the sport and the event enjoys wall to wall coverage and, thanks to the internet, now goes right around the world.

It is richly deserved recognition. I may be biased but there is no greater thrill than seeing Superbike riders dicing on their hi-tech machines at 200mph on a public road.

Looking back, it would be nice to think I played some part in helping to raise the profile of road racing as a spectacle but the North West also has its own unique selling point... location, location, location.

Alaister Seeley celebrates victory in the supersport race this afternoon (his 14th Victory at the North West 200) during Saturday's races. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker
Alaister Seeley celebrates victory in the supersport race this afternoon (his 14th Victory at the North West 200) during Saturday's races. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker
PACEMAKER BELFAST 16/05/2015 Lee Johnston leads Glenn Irwin and Alastair Seeley into the last lap of what is so far the race of the day in the Supersport race at todays North West 200 road races. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 16/05/2015 Lee Johnston leads Glenn Irwin and Alastair Seeley into the last lap of what is so far the race of the day in the Supersport race at todays North West 200 road races. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 16-05-15 Vauxhall International North West 200 2015 BetMcLean.com Supersport Race Alastair Seeley - (Tyco by Tas Racing Suzuki ) heads Glenn Irwin - (Gearlink Kawasaki Kawasaki ) during today's race at the Vauxhall International NW200 in Portrush. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 16-05-15 Vauxhall International North West 200 2015 BetMcLean.com Supersport Race Ben Wilson - (Gearlink Kawasaki Kawasaki ) during today's race at the Vauxhall International NW200 in Portrush. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 16-05-15 Vauxhall International North West 200 2015 BetMcLean.com Supersport Race Glenn Irwin - (Gearlink Kawasaki Kawasaki ) during today's race at the Vauxhall International NW200 in Portrush. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 16-05-15 Vauxhall International North West 200 2015 BetMcLean.com Supersport Race Gary Johnson - (Mar-Train Racing Yamaha ) during today's race at the Vauxhall International NW200 in Portrush. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 16-05-15 Vauxhall International North West 200 2015 BetMcLean.com Supersport Race Alastair Seeley - (Tyco by Tas Racing Suzuki ) during today's race at the Vauxhall International NW200 in Portrush. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 16/05/2015 Alaister Seeley celebrates victory in the supersport race this afternoon (his 14th Victory at the North West 200) with team boss 2nd place man Glenn Irwin during todays races. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 16/05/2015 Glenn Irwin celebrates his 2nd place in the Supersport race at todays North West 200 road races. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 16/05/2015 Glenn Irwin, leads Alaister Seeley and Lee Johnston down to York Corner during the Supersport race at todays North West 200 road races. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 16/05/2015 Glenn Irwin, leads Alaister Seeley and Lee Johnston into this corner during the Supersport race at todays North West 200 road races. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 16/05/2015 Bruce Anstey, Michael Dunlop and Alaister Seeley blast off in the opening Supersport race during todays North West 200. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 16/05/2015 Alaister Seeley celebrates victory in the supersport race this afternoon (his 14th Victory at the North West 200). Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 16/05/2015 Alaister Seeley celebrates victory in the supersport race this afternoon (his 14th Victory at the North West 200) with team boss Phillip Neill during todays races. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
Alaister Seeley celebrates victory in the supersport race on Saturday afternoon (his 14th Victory at the North West 200) with team boss 2nd place man Glenn Irwin and Lee Johnston 3rd during todays races. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press. 16/05/2015
Pacemaker Belfast 16-05-15 Vauxhall International North West 200 2015 BetMcLean.com Supersport Race Lee Johnston - (East Coast Construction/Burdens Triumph ) ahead of Alastair Seeley during today's race at the Vauxhall International NW200 in Portrush. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 16-05-15 Vauxhall International North West 200 2015 BetMcLean.com Supersport Race Glenn Irwin - (Gearlink Kawasaki Kawasaki ) leads the first lap during today's race at the Vauxhall International NW200 in Portrush. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 16/05/2015 Glenn Irwin celebrates his 2nd place in the Supersport race at todays North West 200 road races. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 16-05-15 Vauxhall International North West 200 2015 BetMcLean.com Supersport Race Glenn Irwin - (Gearlink Kawasaki Kawasaki ) heads Alastair Seeley - (Tyco by Tas Racing Suzuki ) during today's race at the Vauxhall International NW200 in Portrush. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 16-05-15 Vauxhall International North West 200 2015 BetMcLean.com Supersport Race James Neesom - (Centurion Windows Kawasaki ) during today's race at the Vauxhall International NW200 in Portrush. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 16-05-15 Vauxhall International North West 200 2015 BetMcLean.com Supersport Race Michael Rutter during today's race at the Vauxhall International NW200 in Portrush. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 16-05-15 Vauxhall International North West 200 2015 BetMcLean.com Supersport Race Bruce Anstey - (Zealand Valvoline Racing by Padgetts Motorcycles Padgetts Honda) during today's race at the Vauxhall International NW200 in Portrush. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 16-05-15 Vauxhall International North West 200 2015 BetMcLean.com Supersport Race Gary Johnson - (Mar-Train Racing Yamaha ) during today's race at the Vauxhall International NW200 in Portrush. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 16-05-15 Vauxhall International North West 200 2015 BetMcLean.com Supersport Race Glenn Irwin - (Gearlink Kawasaki Kawasaki ) leads the first lap during today's race at the Vauxhall International NW200 in Portrush. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 16-05-15 Vauxhall International North West 200 2015 BetMcLean.com Supersport Race Michael Dunlop - (Yamaha ) heads William Dunlop - (cd/ic Yamaha ) during today's race at the Vauxhall International NW200 in Portrush. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast - 16-05-2015 Vauxhall International North West 200 Glenn Irwin Lee Jonhston & Alastair Seeley on the 600 supersport during today's North West 200 Race Photo by Tremaine Gregg/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Belfast - 16-05-2015 Vauxhall International North West 200 Glenn Irwin leads the 600 supersport during today's North West 200 Race Photo by Tremaine Gregg/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Belfast - 16-05-2015 Vauxhall International North West 200 Daen Harrison on the Supersport during today's North West 200 Race Photo by Tremaine Gregg/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Belfast - 16-05-2015 Vauxhall International North West 200 William Dunlop on the Supersport during today's North West 200 Race Photo by Tremaine Gregg/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Belfast - 16-05-2015 Vauxhall International North West 200 Alastair Seeley wins the 600 supersport during today's North West 200 Race Photo by Tremaine Gregg/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Belfast - 16-05-2015 Vauxhall International North West 200 Glenn Irwin and Lee Jonhston on the 600 supersport during today's North West 200 Race Photo by Tremaine Gregg/Pacemaker
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th May 2015 Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye Vauxhall International North West 200 Saturday racing. Race 2 Betmclean.com Supersport Race - 6 laps. Glenn Irwin comes in second.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th May 2015 Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye Vauxhall International North West 200 Saturday racing. Race 2 Betmclean.com Supersport Race - 6 laps. Alastair Seeley wins the race.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th May 2015 Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye Vauxhall International North West 200 Saturday racing. Race 2 Betmclean.com Supersport Race - 6 laps. Glenn Irwin comes in second.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th May 2015 Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye Vauxhall International North West 200 Saturday racing. Race 2 Betmclean.com Supersport Race - 6 laps. Glenn Irwin comes in second.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th May 2015 Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye Vauxhall International North West 200 Saturday racing. Race 2 Betmclean.com Supersport Race - 6 laps. Glenn Irwin comes in second.
@Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 16th May 2015 Mandatory Credit -Brian Little/Presseye Glenn Irwin Gearlink Kawasaki Alistair Seeley Tyco Suzuki and Lee Johnston East Coast Construction Triumph battle wheel to wheel over Black Hill during the Bet McClean Sportsport Race during Saturday's at the Vauxhall International 2015 North West 200. Picture by Brian Little/Presseye
Vauxhall International North West 200 Saturday racing. Guy Martin apologises to North West 200 director Melvyn Whyte for comments he made live on TV on Thursday. Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye
Vauxhall International 2015 North West 200 Spidi Superstock. Didier Grams. Photo: Matt Mackey
Vauxhall International North West 200 2015 Spidi Superstock Race Supporters at Ballysally roundabout during today's race at the Vauxhall International NW200 in Portrush. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Vauxhall International North West 200 2015 Spidi Superstock Race Supporters at Ballysally roundabout during today's race at the Vauxhall International NW200 in Portrush. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 16-05-15 Vauxhall International North West 200 2015 Spidi Superstock Race Supporters at Ballysally roundabout during today's race at the Vauxhall International NW200 in Portrush. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 16-05-15 Vauxhall International North West 200 2015 Spidi Superstock Race Supporters at Ballysally roundabout during today's race at the Vauxhall International NW200 in Portrush. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 16-05-15 Vauxhall International North West 200 2015 Spidi Superstock Race Young supporters at Ballysally roundabout during today's race at the Vauxhall International NW200 in Portrush. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 16/05/2015 A female spectator is air lifted to the Royal Victoria Hospital after being injured during a crash incident in todays superstock race at the North west 200 road races. Photo Tremaine Gregg/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 16/05/2015 A female spectator is air lifted to the Royal Victoria Hospital after being injured during a crash incident in todays superstock race at the North west 200 road races. Photo Tremaine Gregg/Pacemaker Press
Photographer ?Matt Mackey - Presseye.com 16th May 2015 Vauxhall International 2015 North West 200 Spidi Superstock.
@Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 16th May 2015 Mandatory Credit -Brian Little/Presseye Lee Johnston East Coast Construction BMW leads Alistair Seeley Tyco Motorrad Racing S1000RR BMW ,Ian Hutchinson PBM Kawasaki and Michael Dunlop Yamaha over Black Hill during RE-RUN the Spidi Superstock Race which was Red Flagged and the race abandoned during Saturday's at the Vauxhall International 2015 North West 200. Picture by Brian Little/Presseye
Pacemaker Belfast 16-05-15 Vauxhall International North West 200 2015 Spidi Superstock Race Riders gather at Ballysally during today's race at the Vauxhall International NW200 in Portrush. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 16-05-15 Vauxhall International North West 200 2015 Spidi Superstock Race Riders gather at Ballysally during today's race at the Vauxhall International NW200 in Portrush. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 16-05-15 Vauxhall International North West 200 2015 Spidi Superstock Race Michael Dunlop - (Yamaha ) during a break in today's races at the Vauxhall International NW200 in Portrush. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 16-05-15 Vauxhall International North West 200 2015 Spidi Superstock Race Injured rider Sandor Bitter gets a lift from Clerk of the Course Mervyn Whyte during today's races at the Vauxhall International NW200 in Portrush. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Photographer ?Matt Mackey - Presseye.com 16th May 2015 Vauxhall International 2015 North West 200 Spidi Superstock.
Photographer ?Matt Mackey - Presseye.com 16th May 2015 Vauxhall International 2015 North West 200 Spidi Superstock. Guy Martin.
Photographer ?Matt Mackey - Presseye.com 16th May 2015 Vauxhall International 2015 North West 200 Spidi Superstock.
Photographer ?Matt Mackey - Presseye.com 16th May 2015 Vauxhall International 2015 North West 200 Spidi Superstock.
Photographer ?Matt Mackey - Presseye.com 16th May 2015 Vauxhall International 2015 North West 200 Spidi Superstock.
Photographer ?Matt Mackey - Presseye.com 16th May 2015 Vauxhall International 2015 North West 200 Spidi Superstock.
Photographer ?Matt Mackey - Presseye.com 16th May 2015 Vauxhall International 2015 North West 200 Spidi Superstock. North West 200 Event director, Mervyn Whyte along with Danny Kennedy is the Minister for Regional Development and Steve Platter.
Photographer ?Matt Mackey - Presseye.com 16th May 2015 Vauxhall International 2015 North West 200 Spidi Superstock. Clerk of the course Stanleigh Murray.
Photographer ?Matt Mackey - Presseye.com 16th May 2015 Vauxhall International 2015 North West 200 Spidi Superstock.
Photographer ?Matt Mackey - Presseye.com 16th May 2015 Vauxhall International 2015 North West 200 Spidi Superstock. Keith Amor.
Michael Dunlop on the grid during Saturday's North West 200. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
Guy Martin on the grid during Saturday's North West 200. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
Road Racing fans dresses as Minions on the Coast Road between Portrush and Portstewart at the Saturday's Vauxhall International 2015 North West 200. Picture by Brian Little/Presseye
Road Racing fans William Hamill and Raymond Irvine from Bangor on the Coast Road between Portrush and Portstewart at the Saturday's Vauxhall International 2015 North West 200. Picture by Brian Little/Presseye
North West 200 riders carry out a meet and greet in Coleraine ahead of Saturday's races around the International North West 200 circuit.
Lee Johnston meets some of his fans at the 2015 Vauxhall International North West 200 Meet the Riders event in Coleraine town centre today. Picture by Stephen Davison
Adrian Logan interviews John McGuinness at the 2015 Vauxhall International North West 200 Meet the Riders event in Coleraine town centre today. Picture by Stephen Davison
Horst Saiger meets Barbara McCann at the 2015 Vauxhall International North West 200 Meet the Riders event in Coleraine town centre today. Picture by Stephen Davison
Alastair Seeley with Paul Barnes from Kilkeel at the 2015 Vauxhall International North West 200 Meet the Riders event in Coleraine town centre today. Picture by Stephen Davison
Guy Martin fans Allan and Paula Priestley from Banbridge on the Coast Road between Portrush and Portstewart at the Saturday's Vauxhall International 2015 North West 200. Picture by Brian Little/Presseye
North West 200 Thursday races around the International North West 200 circuit. Lee Johnston along with his dad after the superstock race. Photo - Matt Mackey/ Presseye
North West 200 Thursday races around the International North West 200 circuit. Maria Costello. Photo - Matt Mackey/ Presseye
North West 200 Thursday races around the International North West 200 circuit. Supertwin race winner Ryan Farquhar. Photo - Matt Mackey/ Presseye
North West 200 Thursday races around the International North West 200 circuit. Jamie Hamilton who came 3rd in the Supertwin race. Photo - Matt Mackey/ Presseye
North West 200 Thursday races around the International North West 200 circuit. Alastair Seeley along with his dad after winning the supersport race. Photo - Matt Mackey/ Presseye
James Hillier (Quattro Plant Muc-off Kawaski Kawasaki) in action during a practice session for this year's NW200 in Portrush. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
North West 200 Thursday races around the International North West 200 circuit. Martin Jessop. Photo - Matt Mackey/ Presseye
Pacemaker Belfast 14-05-15 Vauxhall International North West 200 2015 Derek McGee during today's Supertwin Race at the Vauxhall International NW200 in Portrush. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 14-05-15 Vauxhall International North West 200 2015 Christian Elkin - (Kawasaki ) during today's Supertwin Race at the Vauxhall International NW200 in Portrush. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 14-05-15 Vauxhall International North West 200 2015 Ryan Farquhar - (SGS/Manx Gas by KMR Kawasaki KMR Kawasaki ) during today's Supertwin Race at the Vauxhall International NW200 in Portrush. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 14/05/2015 Great weather and huge crowds for Thursday evenings races at the North West 200.. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 14-05-15 Vauxhall International North West 200 2015 Jeremy McWilliams - (SGS/Manx Gas by KMR Kawasaki KMR Kawasaki ) during today's Supertwin Race at the Vauxhall International NW200 in Portrush. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 14-05-15 Vauxhall International North West 200 2015 Michael Dunlop - (Yamaha ) during today's Supertwin Race at the Vauxhall International NW200 in Portrush. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 14-05-15 Vauxhall International North West 200 2015 Jeremy McWilliams - (SGS/Manx Gas by KMR Kawasaki KMR Kawasaki ) and Jamie Hamilton during today's Supertwin Race at the Vauxhall International NW200 in Portrush. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 14-05-15 Vauxhall International North West 200 2015 Ryan Farquhar - (SGS/Manx Gas by KMR Kawasaki KMR Kawasaki ) during today's Supertwin Race at the Vauxhall International NW200 in Portrush. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 14-05-15 Vauxhall International North West 200 2015 A rider crashed on the entrance to Ballysally roundabout during today's Superstock Race at the Vauxhall International NW200 in Portrush. The Spidi superstock race was postponed and will be re sun on Saturday Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 14-05-15 Vauxhall International North West 200 2015 A rider crashed on the entrance to Ballysally roundabout during today's Superstock Race at the Vauxhall International NW200 in Portrush. The Spidi superstock race was postponed and will be re sun on Saturday Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 14-05-15 Vauxhall International North West 200 2015 Lee Johnston - (East Coast Construction/Burdens Triumph ) during today's Supersport Race at the Vauxhall International NW200 in Portrush. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 14-05-15 Vauxhall International North West 200 2015 John McGuinness - (Jackson Racing Honda ) during today's Supersport Race at the Vauxhall International NW200 in Portrush. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 14-05-15 Vauxhall International North West 200 2015 Alastair Seeley - (Tyco by Tas Racing Suzuki ) during today's Supersport Race at the Vauxhall International NW200 in Portrush. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 14-05-15 Vauxhall International North West 200 2015 Alastair Seeley - (Tyco by Tas Racing Suzuki ) during today's Supersport Race at the Vauxhall International NW200 in Portrush. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 14-05-15 Vauxhall International North West 200 2015 Alastair Seeley - (Tyco by Tas Racing Suzuki ) during today's Supersport Race at the Vauxhall International NW200 in Portrush. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 14-05-15 Vauxhall International North West 200 2015 Dean Harrison - (Mar-Train Racing Yamaha ) during today's Supersport Race at the Vauxhall International NW200 in Portrush. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 14-05-15 Vauxhall International North West 200 2015 William Dunlop - (cd/ic Yamaha ) during today's Supersport Race at the Vauxhall International NW200 in Portrush. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 14-05-15 Vauxhall International North West 200 2015 Jeremy McWilliams - (SGS/Manx Gas by KMR Kawasaki KMR Kawasaki ) and Jamie Hamilton during today's Supertwin Race at the Vauxhall International NW200 in Portrush. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Photographer ?Matt Mackey - Presseye.com 14th May 2015 North West 200 Thursday races around the International North West 200 circuit. First Minister Peter Robinson chats to Race Director Mervyn Whyte and racer Alastair Seeley on the grid.
PACEMAKER BELFAST 14/05/2015 Alastair Seeley celebrates notching up his 13th victory at the North west 200 this evening. He was the run away winner in the opening Supersport race, and hopes for a few more on saturday afternoon. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
On the grid during todays practice for the 2015 North West 200 Road races. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
Lee Johnston during todays practice for the 2015 North West 200 Road races. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
Vauxhall International 2015 North West 200 Thursday practice ahead of tonight's races. Crowds watch the action on the grid. Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye
Vauxhall International 2015 North West 200 Thursday practice ahead of tonight's races. Alastair Seeley pictured on the grid with BBC presenter Stephen Watson. Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye
Vauxhall International 2015 North West 200 Thursday practice ahead of tonight's races. Jamie Hamilton on the grid. Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye
Vauxhall International 2015 North West 200 Thursday practice ahead of tonight's races. Jeremy McWilliams pictured on the grid. Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye
Vauxhall International 2015 North West 200 Thursday practice ahead of tonight's races. Glenn Irwin on the grid. Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye
Vauxhall International 2015 North West 200 Thursday practice ahead of tonight's races. John McGuinness on the grid. Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye
Vauxhall International 2015 North West 200 Thursday practice ahead of tonight's races. James Hillier on the grid. Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye
Vauxhall International 2015 North West 200 Thursday practice ahead of tonight's races. James Hillier on the grid. Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye
Alastair Seeley went fastest in the Superbike, Supersport and Superstock classes during todays practice for the 2015 North West 200 Road races. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
John McGuinness on his Superbike during todays practice for the 2015 North West 200 Road races. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
Lee Johnston during todays practice for the 2015 North West 200 Road races. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
Alastair Seeley on his Superbike during todays practice for the 2015 North West 200 Road races. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
The Vertical Trix stunt team entertain during the North West 200 (International road racing) Race Week Festival event at East Strand, Portrush. Picture Margaret McLaughlin
Burning rubber with the stunt team during the North West 200 (International road racing) Race Week Festival event at East Strand, Portrush. Picture Margaret McLauglin.
Burning rubber with the stunt team during the North West 200 (International road racing) Race Week Festival event at East Strand, Portrush. Picture Margaret McLaughlin
Burning rubber with the stunt team during the North West 200 (International road racing) Race Week Festival event at East Strand, Portrush. Picture Margaret McLaughlin
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 14th May 2015 Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye Vauxhall International 2015 North West 200 Thursday practice ahead of tonight's races. Alastair Seeley pictured on the grid.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 14th May 2015 Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye Vauxhall International 2015 North West 200 Thursday practice ahead of tonight's races. Michael Rutter on the grid.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 14th May 2015 Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye Vauxhall International 2015 North West 200 Thursday practice ahead of tonight's races. Keith Amor on the grid.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 14th May 2015 Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye Vauxhall International 2015 North West 200 Thursday practice ahead of tonight's races. Bruce Anstey on the grid.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 14th May 2015 Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye Vauxhall International 2015 North West 200 Thursday practice ahead of tonight's races. John McGuinness on the grid.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 14th May 2015 Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye Vauxhall International 2015 North West 200 Thursday practice ahead of tonight's races. Bruce Anstey on the grid.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 14th May 2015 Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye Vauxhall International 2015 North West 200 Thursday practice ahead of tonight's races. Keith Amor on the grid.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 14th May 2015 Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye Vauxhall International 2015 North West 200 Thursday practice ahead of tonight's races. Keith Amor on the grid.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 14th May 2015 Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye Vauxhall International 2015 North West 200 Thursday practice ahead of tonight's races. John McGuinness on the grid.
Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 14th May 2015 Mandatory Credit -Brian Little/Presseye Ryan Farquhar SGS/Manx Gas KMR Kawasaki on the racing line during Supertwin practice for the Vauxhall International 2015 North West 200. Picture by Brian Little/Presseye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 14th May 2015 Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye Vauxhall International 2015 North West 200 Thursday practice ahead of tonight's races. The bikes wait to be moved up to the grid.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 14th May 2015 Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye Vauxhall International 2015 North West 200 Thursday practice ahead of tonight's races. William Dunlop makes his way to the grid.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 14th May 2015 Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye Vauxhall International 2015 North West 200 Thursday practice ahead of tonight's races. The bikes wait to be moved up to the grid.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 14th May 2015 Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye Vauxhall International 2015 North West 200 Thursday practice ahead of tonight's races. Guy Martin pictured on the grid.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 14th May 2015 Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye Vauxhall International 2015 North West 200 Thursday practice ahead of tonight's races. Alastair Seeley pictured on the grid.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 14th May 2015 Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye Vauxhall International 2015 North West 200 Thursday practice ahead of tonight's races. Guy Martin pictured on the grid.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 14th May 2015 Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye Vauxhall International 2015 North West 200 Thursday practice ahead of tonight's races. Dean Harrison(left) and Lee Johnston pictured on the grid.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 14th May 2015 Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye Vauxhall International 2015 North West 200 Thursday practice ahead of tonight's races. Jeremy McWilliams(left) and Ryan Farquhar pictured on the grid.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 14th May 2015 Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye Vauxhall International 2015 North West 200 Thursday practice ahead of tonight's races. Guy Martin pictured on the grid.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 14th May 2015 Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye Vauxhall International 2015 North West 200 Thursday practice ahead of tonight's races. Jeremy McWilliams(left) and Ryan Farquhar pictured on the grid.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 14th May 2015 Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye Vauxhall International 2015 North West 200 Thursday practice ahead of tonight's races. Alastair Seeley pictured on the grid.
Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 14th May 2015 Mandatory Credit -Brian Little/Presseye Jamie Hamilton Cookstown/Burrows Kawasaki during Supertwin practice for the Vauxhall International 2015 North West 200. Picture by Brian Little/Presseye
Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 14th May 2015 Mandatory Credit -Brian Little/Presseye Michael Dunlop Yamaha looking over his shoulder during Supertwin practice for the Vauxhall International 2015 North West 200. Picture by Brian Little/Presseye
Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 14th May 2015 Mandatory Credit -Brian Little/Presseye James Hillier Quattro Plant Muc-off Kawasaki during Supertwin practice for the Vauxhall International 2015 North West 200. Picture by Brian Little/Presseye
Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 14th May 2015 Mandatory Credit -Brian Little/Presseye Ryan Farquhar SGS/Manx Gas KMR Kawasaki leading Ian Morrell Suzuki during Supertwin practice for the Vauxhall International 2015 North West 200. Picture by Brian Little/Presseye
Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 14th May 2015 Mandatory Credit -Brian Little/Presseye Jeremy McWilliams SGS/Manx Gas KMR Kawasaki with James Cowton Kawasaki during Supertwin practice for the Vauxhall International 2015 North West 200. Picture by Brian Little/Presseye
Tyco BMW's Alastair Seeley was fastest in the Supersport, Superstock and Superbike classes at Tuesday's practice for the North West 200 Road races.
PACEMAKER BELFAST 12/05/2015 Tyco BMW's Alastair Seeley was fastest in the Supersport, Superstock and Superbike classes at Tuesday's practice for the North West 200 Road races. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 12/05/2015 Guy Martin chats with Tyco BMW team boss Philip Neill during Tuesday's practice for the North West 200 Road races. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 12/05/2015 Gary Johnson during Tuesday's practice for the North West 200 Road races. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 12/05/2015 Michael Dunlop during Tuesday's practice for the North West 200 Road races. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 12/05/2015 Guy Martin chats with Tyco BMW team boss Philip Neill during Tuesday's practice for the North West 200 Road races. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 12/05/2015 : North West 200 newcomer Glenn Irwin gets some his advice from his father Alan during today's opening practice session. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 12-05-15 Vauxhall International North West 200 2015 / in action during today's first practice session for this years Vauxhall International NW200 in Portrush. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Stuart Andrews waves to the large crowd after receiving a standing ovation. Stuart's son Simon was killed last year on the approach to Metropole. Stuart was attending last nights Miss North West 200.
PACEMAKER BELFAST 12/05/2015 Penz13.com's Dan Kruger shows off his special Simin Andrews tribute helmet during today's practice session. Andrews, who raced for the Penz13.com team was killed during last year's event Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 12/05/2015 Penz13.com's Dan Kruger looks to the heavens in his special North West 200 helmet during today's practice session. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
@Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 12th May 2015 Mandatory Credit -Brian Little/Presseye Michael Dunlop Yamaha during Supersport practice for the Vauxhall International 2015 North West 200. Picture by Brian Little/Presseye
@Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 12th May 2015 Mandatory Credit -Brian Little/Presseye Paul Shoesmith Ice Valley Yamaha during Supersport practice for the Vauxhall International 2015 North West 200. Picture by Brian Little/Presseye
@Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 12th May 2015 Mandatory Credit -Brian Little/Presseye Michael Dunlop Yamaha during Supersport practice for the Vauxhall International 2015 North West 200. Picture by Brian Little/Presseye
@Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 12th May 2015 Mandatory Credit -Brian Little/Presseye Michael Dunlop Yamaha chased by Keith Amor RidDeluge Honda during Supersport practice for the Vauxhall International 2015 North West 200. Picture by Brian Little/Presseye
Pacemaker Belfast 12-05-15 Vauxhall International North West 200 2015 Adrian Clark - (Kawasaki ) in action during today's first practice session for this years Vauxhall International NW200 in Portrush. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 12/05/2015 Conor Cummins & Michael Rutter lead off the superbikes during Tuesday's practice for the North West 200 Road races. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 12-05-15 Vauxhall International North West 200 2015 Ian Hutchinson - (Paul Bird Motorsport Kawasaki ) in action during today's first practice session for this years Vauxhall International NW200 in Portrush. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 12-05-15 Vauxhall International North West 200 2015 / in action during today's first practice session for this years Vauxhall International NW200 in Portrush. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 12-05-15 Vauxhall International North West 200 2015 Keith Amor - (RigDeluge Road Racing BMW ) in action during today's first practice session for this years Vauxhall International NW200 in Portrush. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 12-05-15 Vauxhall International North West 200 2015 / in action during today's first practice session for this years Vauxhall International NW200 in Portrush. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 12-05-15 Vauxhall International North West 200 2015 / in action during today's first practice session for this years Vauxhall International NW200 in Portrush. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 12-05-15 Vauxhall International North West 200 2015 Dan Kneen - (Valvoline Racing by Padgetts Motorcycles Padgetts Honda ) in action during today's first practice session for this years Vauxhall International NW200 in Portrush. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast - 12-05-2015 Vauxhall International North West 200 Alastair Seeley on the Superstock during today's North West 200 Practice Photo by Tremaine Gregg/Pacemaker
Vauxhall International North West 200 Michael Rutter on the Superstock during today's North West 200 Practice.
PACEMAKER BELFAST 12/05/2015 William Dunlop (Tyco BMW Motorrad Racing) during Tuesday's practice for the North West 200 Road races. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 12/05/2015 William Dunlop during Tuesday's practice for the North West 200 Road races. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 12/05/2015 Alaistair Seeley (Tyco BMW Motorrad Racing) during Tuesday's practice for the North West 200 Road races. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 12/05/2015 Phillip Neill & Guy Martin (Tyco BMW Motorrad Racing) during Tuesday's practice for the North West 200 Road races. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 12/05/2015 Lee Johnston during Tuesday's practice for the North West 200 Road races. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 12/05/2015 Conor Cummins & Michael Rutter lead off the superbikes during Tuesday's practice for the North West 200 Road races. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
2015 Vauxhall International North West 200. Tuesday practice. Gary Johnston.
Photographer ?Matt Mackey - Presseye.com 12th May 2015 On track doctor, Dr John Hinds photographed as he prepares his kit to allow him to deliver crucial medical aid if and when required on the North West 200 circuit.
Photographer ?Matt Mackey - Presseye.com 12th May 2015 On track doctor, Dr John Hinds photographed as he prepares his kit to allow him to deliver crucial medical aid if and when required on the North West 200 circuit.
Photographer ?Matt Mackey - Presseye.com 12th May 2015 2015 Vauxhall International North West 200. Tuesday practice. Conor Cummins.
Photographer ?Matt Mackey - Presseye.com 12th May 2015 2015 Vauxhall International North West 200. Tuesday practice. John McGuinness.
Photographer ?Matt Mackey - Presseye.com 12th May 2015 2015 Vauxhall International North West 200. Tuesday practice. Dean Harrison.
Photographer ?Matt Mackey - Presseye.com 12th May 2015 2015 Vauxhall International North West 200. Tuesday practice. William Dunlop.
Photographer ?Matt Mackey - Presseye.com 12th May 2015 2015 Vauxhall International North West 200. Tuesday practice. James Hamilton along with his team.
Photographer ?Matt Mackey - Presseye.com 12th May 2015 2015 Vauxhall International North West 200. Tuesday practice. Ian Hutchinson.
Photographer ?Matt Mackey - Presseye.com 12th May 2015 2015 Vauxhall International North West 200. Tuesday practice.
Photographer ?Matt Mackey - Presseye.com 12th May 2015 2015 Vauxhall International North West 200. Tuesday practice. Jamie Hamilton.
Photographer ?Matt Mackey - Presseye.com 12th May 2015 2015 Vauxhall International North West 200. Tuesday practice. William Dunlop.
Photographer ?Matt Mackey - Presseye.com 12th May 2015 2015 Vauxhall International North West 200. Tuesday practice. Bruce Anstey.
Photographer ?Matt Mackey - Presseye.com 12th May 2015 2015 Vauxhall International North West 200. Tuesday practice. Lee Johnston.
A good bet: Alastair Seeley is joined at the Bet McLean Juniper Hill chicane by Paul McLean of McLean’s Bookmakers and Mervyn Whyte, Event Director of the Vauxhall International North West 200
Blast from the past: Phillip McCallen on his way to his historic five-timer at the North West back in 1992

The atmosphere at all our bike meetings is great but this is the one where whole families pitch up together, some to watch the racing, some for the entertainment laid on and some just to enjoy the scenery and a break away.

For riders, the experience of racing at the North West will stay with them long after they've hung up their leathers and I should know. I enjoyed 11 wins in total and the most podiums at the event, 27, and can still relive every race in my head.

These days I travel round the course at a more sedate pace as part of the BBC commentary team and, with another great North West competitor, Steve Plater, as a mentor to the newcomers each year.

We have 30 first timers this year which is brilliant. Yesterday, we gave them a 45-minute safety briefing in the hospitality marquee followed by a coach tour of the course, talking them through the corners, pointing out potential hazards and generally reinforcing the safety issue from 20 years of experience.

You have to remember these riders are mostly used to short circuits and a top speed of maybe 150mph, which is fast by any standards. But this week they'll be hurtling towards 200mph on roads - that's a different level of focus.

It's a far cry from my first North West in 1988 when we just turned up and rode our boots off with no more than local knowledge of the course to aid us. Steve and I are on hand throughout the event to respond to any issues the newcomers need to raise and the importance Mervyn Whyte and his organising team place on ensuring they go out fully prepared is another example of how the North West has evolved into a totally professional, leave nothing to chance set-up.

Today, those new kids on the block get their chance to quite literally put all they've learned into practice alongside the big names and North West veterans.

Tomorrow, I'll tell you what we learned from this first session of North West 2015.

Belfast Telegraph

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