Entries close for the Relentless International North West 200 in association with Black Horse on Easter Tuesday, but race director Mervyn Whyte has already secured a top quality entry list, many of whom were in Portrush yesterday for the penultimate media gathering.
With the main event now only six weeks away it’s a matter of just topping up for the organising Coleraine & District Motor Club, and in the current financial downturn, it’s also encouraging to see a new local sponsor on the books for the May 15 showpiece.
Coleraine based Yoko Noodle Bar will take on sponsorship of the opening Superbike race around the famous 8.9-mile Triangle — a move that riders and organisers alike are very pleased to see.
“We’re delighted to welcome on-board Walter Tsang and his staff at Yoko Noodle Bar and we’re looking forward to working alongside them at this year’s event,” Whyte said.
The Superbike races are always hotly contested on the Portstewart — Coleraine —Portrush triangle and to date, the Club has secured the services of 55 competitors for the feature races, with last year’s winner Steve Plater being joined by a whole host of household names.
TT legend John McGuinness will partner Plater in the HM Plant Honda set-up and local outfit Relentless by TAS Suzuki will field three riders come May.
Antipodean pairing, Bruce Anstey and Cameron Donald will be back in the gothic dark livery of the Moneymore team; this year joined by their diminutive British Superbike team-mate Alastair Seeley. Seeley will be gunning for a hat-trick of wins in the Superstock class, but also offers local fans their best chance of a ‘home’ victory in the Superbike races.
Another three-pronged attack will come from MSS Colchester Kawasaki who have double NW200 winner Ryan Farquhar on the books, ably supported by Crumlin man Stephen Thompson and circuit rookie Simon Andrews.
Andrews is a leading light in the British Superbike Championship, and in my opinion, is well capable of a North West 200 top six on his debut. In saying that, fellow BSB pilot Steve Brogan came to the North West a few years back and got the pure road racing ‘yips’. But if Andrews can deal with racing at close proximity, between the hedges and kerbstones on one of the world’s fastest road circuits — then he may well spring a surprise.
Farquhar will undoubtedly lead the green attack at the Triangle for Nick Morgan’s team, and the Dungannon man will again be gunning for that maiden international Superbike success. He certainly shouldn’t be written off.
Others worth a mention are Stuart Easton, this year’s British Superbike title favourite, and again, if the Hawick lad can keep his composure on Shaun Muir’s Swan Honda, he will not be too far away.
Michael Rutter has long been the darling of the NW200 fans and his laid-back approach and deadpan demeanour should not be taken lightly by his peers. And along with the likes of Ian Lougher, Conor Cummins, Gary Johnson and the aforementioned riders, we are certainly in for a real treat of Superbike racing on May 15.
Also launched last night were the CP Hire Superstock and McKendry Fabrications 125cc races. Apart from all the usual suspects, the biggest announcement in the Superstock class was the inclusion of 12–time NW200 winner Michael Rutter on a BMW.
In the 125cc class the leading contenders are Chris Palmer, Paul Robinson, Sam Dunlop and BSB rider Pete Wakefield. But with Farquhar rumoured to be entering the class on his hybrid 450cc Kawasaki and former British 125cc champion Michael Wilcox also toying over an entry, the tiddlers class could take on a whole new look come May.
The Race Week Festival kicks off on Sunday, May 8 and runs through to May 16. Further details along with grandstand seats and hospitality packages can be purchased from the official website: www.northwest200.org or by ringing 028 7035 5800.