Belfast Telegraph

Comment: Onwards for North West 200 after one of the best in years

Class act: Jonatha Rea meets fan Josh McClean
Class act: Jonatha Rea meets fan Josh McClean
Jonathan handed a racing glove birthday present to Drew Aiken, three on Saturday, pictured with dad Andrew

By Phillip McCallen

Well the dust has settled over what was a very, very good North West 200, one of the best in years, all done and dusted for 3.45pm, unheard of in recent times.

No one should have any complaints — it was a credit to Event Director Mervyn Whyte and his team for putting on a superb meeting, the competitors for providing the exciting racing and the tens of thousands of spectators who lined the track.

Performances of the meeting had to be those by the East Antrim duo, Alastair Seeley and Glenn Irwin.

Both were superb in their execution of their respective race wins, their handling of the media pressure that comes with the territory and their rapport with the fans.

Seeley, with three wins and two seconds over the two days of racing, was absolutely top drawer and Irwin proved what a good Superbike rider he has become. I believe the pair of them feed off that other East Antrim motorcycling hero Jonathan Rea. They see what he has done.

Irwin in particular has certainly raised his game from last year when he won by a small margin to his demolition of a world-class road race field on Saturday to win race one by a second and the final race by 10 seconds.

Triple World Superbike champion Rea completing a parade lap for the fans was a brilliant touch and he recalled his young days running around the race paddocks with the Irwin kids, racing in their DNA from their rider dads and all coming through the ranks of schoolboy motocross to where they are today.

We supplied the machine for Jonathan’s lap, the bike owned by a customer, a man with connections with the sport for many years. We prepared the bike to get the show on the road and arranged for Jonathan to be at the event.

And he proved to be the class act we all know that he is, stopping at York, Ballysally and Metropole to acknowledge the vast crowds cheering him.

And, after dismounting at the finish line, he made more fans’ days by throwing his racing gloves into the grandstand.

It was a gesture later repeated by victorious Irwin, who added his boots for good measure!

As a country, I believe we put on a world-class display with the crowds, the weather, Jonathan’s lap, a guest appearance by former World champion and King of the Jungle, my old rival Carl Fogarty, and the racing being streamed around the world on the internet via the BBC pictures.

I had messages from Colombia, Japan, New Zealand and Dubai to name a few and we know from official statistics the benefit to the local community from the event is in the region of £10million — how would you replace that?

We are always expecting the ‘big names’ to perform, but if you look deeper, reputations were enhanced by the likes of Peter Hickman taking his first win, showing the British Superbike boys that they are capable of doing the business.

James Cowton and Joey ‘Yorkshire’ Thompson were superb in Supertwins. Cowton’s win will certainly give him a confidence boost ahead of the TT, while 20-year-old Thompson learned a lot from Thursday’s race to go so close on Saturday, just one little error that Cowton and Jeremy McWilliams took full advantage of to relegate him from first to third .

Winston McAdoo was ecstatic over Cowton’s win on the Gortreagh Printing Kawasaki, the Cookstown business man being involved in the sport for 35 years. He and his team certainly deserved that victory.

So take a bow, everyone who played a part in a great North West, from the riders, Mervyn and his team, the volunteer army and the fams who were treated to magificent Thursday and Saturday race programmes.

Onward now to next year’s 90th anniversary event.

Phillip McCallen is an 11-time NW200 winner, BBC analyst and owner of Phillip McCallen Motorcycles, Lisburn

Belfast Telegraph


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