Belfast Telegraph

North West 200 are quick off the mark to set a date

By Jim Gracey

The provisional date for next year’s North West 200 has been announced, with the main race day falling on Saturday, May 16 in 2015. Race Week festival events will begin on May 10.

“We wanted to let people know the dates as early as possible and after discussions with BSB co-ordinator Stuart Higgs we have been able to allocate May 10-16 for 2015,” Event Director Mervyn Whyte explained.

“We have been inundated with enquiries about 2015 as people begin to plan their holidays and this is a free week between the May Day Bank Holiday BSB meeting and the start of the Isle of Man TT.”

Whyte also revealed that he is in negotiation to bring more high profile short circuit racers to Portrush in the wake of the success enjoyed by recent NW recruits Josh Brookes and Peter Hickman.

“I have been talking to Billy McConnell and Tommy Bridewell about entering the North West and they are both keen to race if we can get a package together,” Whyte said.

Australian rider McConnell, who is currently locked in battle in the British Supersport title race with local North West hero Alastair Seeley, visited the North coast races in 2014 and expressed a strong interest in racing the 8.9 mile Triangle course.

It would be a mouthwatering prospect to have the Smith’s Triumph rider on the grid in 2015 alongside Milwaukee Yamaha’s Bridewell who has become a regular podium finisher in BSB in recent seasons.

Next year will be Whyte’s 15th year in charge of Ireland’s flagship motorcycle event, having first become involved with the event as a marshal in 1972. He is showing no signs of slowing down.

“The North West bounced back in 2014 with packed grandstands for both Thursday evening and Saturday’s racing,” Whyte enthuses.

“Yes, we have had a couple of tough years because of the weather, but road racing as a sport is booming, both internationally and locally, and the North West 200 is very much part of that phenomena.

“Riders like Guy Martin have a huge public profile and our own homegrown stars like Michael and William Dunlop have a massive following.

“Television coverage and press exposure for road racing is at an all-time high and more and fans are flocking to the roads to watch the spectacular action.”

Whyte points to the involvement of huge corporations like Vauxhall, Milwaukee Power Tools and Pirtek as evidence of the growing strength of the between the hedges sport.

“Our race is now attracting sponsorship from these massive corporations as well as successful homegrown companies and BMW came back to the North West in 2014 to win their first road race in decades,” he says.

Vauxhall’s two year title sponsorship deal of the NW is now at an end but it is understood the car giant is currently negotiating for a new term.

“We have also received strong Government backing in recent years to extend and increase the flexibility of our road closures and that has helped us to introduce innovations like day time practice and Thursday evening racing which have been popular with everyone. The goal now is to continue to build on that and make the North West 200 as safe and enjoyable for racers and spectators as we possibly can.”

Whyte is determined to see the North West 200 maintain its position amongst the growing number of high profile sporting events that Northern Ireland is currently attracting.

“We have seen the great success of the Giro D’Italia in 2014 and the British Open golf championship is destined for Royal Portrush in the next few years,” Whyte said.

“The North West 200 has been attracting hundreds of thousands of sports fans to the north coast for the last 85 years and we will move heaven and earth to continue to do that for the next 85!”

Belfast Telegraph Digital


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