New boys West and Neve get to check out vroom with view
Thirteen times Vauxhall International North West 200 winner Michael Rutter may still be trying to finalise his own machinery for this year's May showpiece, but the affable Englishman was on hand to act as mentor to Sam West and Craig Neve, who will make their North West 200 debuts this year.
Midlands rider Rutter, a North West folk hero, like his dad Tony before him, was the first man to break the 200mph speed barrier on the Portstewart-Coleraine-Portrush circuit and happily travelled over to share his knowledge of the course with the newcomers as they caught their first glimpse as guests of race chief Mervyn Whyte.
Neve is an experienced performer having competed in British Supersport, Superstock and also in the Spanish championship, but his road racing debut at last year's Manx Grand Prix - finishing seventh in the Newcomers' class - has set him up well for his first run out on the north coast.
"I have always wanted to race at the North West 200," enthused the 22-year-old electrician.
"After getting a look at the circuit with Michael, I can't wait to get going. Michael has massive experience around here and I have tried to absorb every word he has said.
Neve will race a ZX10R Kawasaki and a 600cc Honda for Cormack Flexhydraulics at the NW200.
Wilmslow boy Sam West was equally enthusiastic about receiving guidance from North West legend Rutter.
He said: "Michael is someone who I've always looked up to and it is great the way the organisers give you a good chance to learn the ropes, rather than being thrown in at the deep end."
West, who also made his road racing debut at last year's Manx GP, will have a full stable of Homer Racing Kawasakis for the Supersport, Superstock and Superbike races in May.
"All the riders tell me that the atmosphere is the best of any race, so it will be a good way to kick off the season," said West.
Race veteran Rutter (42) said of the new north coast recruits: "The guys are really keen and it is great to see new riders coming through at the North West, even if they do make my life harder."
With safety of paramount importance at the North West, Event Director Mervyn Whyte concluded: "We have always tried to have experienced riders like Michael available when it comes to giving newcomers some guidance as they find their way at the North West.
"Sam and Craig have loads of racing experience and they are very keen to move on to the roads which is great news for the future of the sport."