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North West 200 stars may have to reign in the rain

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The eyes have it: Michael Rutter, on pole in the Superbikes, looks determined as he prepares for today's big races

The eyes have it: Michael Rutter, on pole in the Superbikes, looks determined as he prepares for today's big races

The eyes have it: Michael Rutter, on pole in the Superbikes, looks determined as he prepares for today's big races

Today's Relentless North West 200 road race spectacular will go ahead as planned, despite the threat of rain disruption on the north coast.

Contingency plans have been drawn up to ensure racing takes place with tens of thousands of bike fans and day trippers set to descend on the Portrush-Portstewart-Coleraine triangle from early morning.

Five races are scheduled, with over 300 riders competing, headlined by the powerful 1,000cc Superbikes capable of speeds touching 200mph, making rider and spectator safety the number one priority for the Coleraine Motorcycle Club organisers.

“Safety is always the prime consideration,” stressed race chief Mervyn Whyte.

“Obviously we hope the forecast rain will pass us by, as has happened before.”

“The weather systems here are extremely unpredictable and ever changing.

“We were supposed to have rain on our Tuesday practice night, but it never materialised. We're ready for all eventualities.”

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The main concern for Whyte and his team is that both practice sessions this week have been on dry roads.

“That's a particular issue with our 20 or so newcomers who've never practiced in the wet up here,” he explained.

“In the event of a rainy start we will give them a few practice laps before the start.

“Wet conditions aren't a huge problem for the majority of experienced riders.”

Peculiarly, riders prefer a wet day all round than patches of wet and dry.

Whyte added: “They know then which tyre choices to make to suit the conditions.

“When you get alternating conditions, that's when the problems and danger arises.”

The race chief spoke after a hospital visit to Thursday's practice crash casualty, Scottish rider Stuart Easton.

The Kawasaki ace remains sedated in Belfast's Royal Victoria hospital where he is being treated for a leg break, fractured pelvis and thankfully, non-life threatening internal injuries from his high speed spill on the Portstewart-Coleraine road at Cromore.

“Stuart is a popular rider here and the holder of the race speed record. Everyone associated with the North West wishes him a full and speedy recovery,” said Whyte.

Easton's close pal Michael Rutter will start the main Superbike races in pole position, seeking his 13th North West win which would move him into equal second on the all-time winners' list alongside Joey Dunlop.

But Rutter (39) will be looking over his shoulder from the start at the man he considers his biggest rival for the win — Carrick's TAS Suzuki rider Alastair Seeley, relegated to the third row of the grid after mechanical problems with his bike on Thursday.

Seeley starts in pole in the Supersport and Superstock races, but Michael Dunlop could be the dark horse who outruns them all.


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