Belfast Telegraph

Saigur bidding to finish week with shock win

By Roy Harris

The surprise of the Vauxhall North West 200 so far has been the performance of Horst Saiger.

The Austrian was fastest in Tuesday’s Superstock practice and after Thursday final qualifying he started that evening’s race from sixth on the grid, eventually finishing in fifth position just 3.4secs behind winner Alastair Seeley and setting a new lap record for the class at 121.214mph.

Behind Saiger were Simon Andrews, Conor Cummins, Guy Martin, newcomer Peter Hickman, William Dunlop, Stephen Thompson, Bruce Anstey and James Hillier so you can determine just how impressive his race was.

Horst is a 42-year-old, now living in Liechtenstein and has a history of racing in World Superbike, World Endurance, AMA and Macau before being enticed to compete in the North West 200 by Mervyn Whyte and his team for the first time in 2012 when he finished 10th in the Superstock race ahead of ‘big name’ regulars Gary Johnson, Adrian Archibald and Ian Lougher.

He is also one of a contingent of competitors from mainland Europe, who now make the annual pilgrimage to the North Coast.

Prior to Easter, Horst was part of the three-man Bollinger Kawasaki Switzerland Team, who finished fourth overall in the prestigious Bol d’Or 24-hour race at Magny Cours in France in which Guy Martin finished seventh as part of the R2CL Suzuki Team, as part of his build up to Tyco Suzuki’s road racing season.

Horst has also competed in the Suzuka 8-hour race, Daytona 200, Le Mans 24-hour race and raced at Terlicko (Czech Republic) where he has won three times.

So the Austrian is no slouch; he is on the fourth row for today’s Superbike races and finished 15th in Thursday’s Supersport race.

No European mainland rider has ever won a North West 200 race, but the Austrian has shown there are talented road racers on the continent, who can be encouraged to compete in the major International road races – the North West 200, TT and Ulster Grand Prix.

Indeed, only three riders outside of UK and Ireland have ever won at the North West, New Zealanders, Stuart Avant, Robert Holden and Bruce Anstey.

Saigur is in a good place to become the fourth.

 

Mervyn is still the main man behind the scenes

The man who carries the weight of the Vauxhall North West 200 on his shoulders is Event Director Mervyn Whyte MBE.

In this the 85th birthday of Ireland’s premier road race, Mervyn’s association with the event goes back to the 1970s when he was a marshal, before becoming race treasurer between 1982 and 1986.

He then became Race Secretary from 1987 until 2001 before taking charge of the meeting as Clerk of the Course from 2001 until 2009, when a new management structure within the Coleraine Club saw him as Race Director, then Technical Director and now Event Director since 2010.

“The last few years have been difficult simply because of the weather, however with new legislation in place we have more flexibility to play with, although we hope not to have to use it,” said Whyte.

Among the competitors Mervyn welcomes to the North West this year is Ryan Farquhar, making his racing comeback at the event having come out of retirement.

Farquhar was an innovator within the fairly new Supertwin class and in its inaugural year, 2012, led home a KMR Kawasaki 1-2-3.

Before Thursday’s opening Supertwin race in which Farquhar, Keith Amor, McWilliams and Conor Behan raced his machines the Dungannon man said, “Nowadays more and more teams are getting involved and it is up to me to keep ahead of them. At the end of the day they are my bikes.”

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