Belfast Telegraph

North West 200: Bikes, barbecues and ice-cream as race fans flock to circuit

By Leona O'Neill

There's a queue of leather-clad bikers in Morelli's Ice Cream shop in Portrush that is stretching out the door. It's lunchtime on a warm, sunny North West 200 Thursday and these men, dressed in black trousers, boots and thick padded jackets stand in stark contrast to the blistering heat outside.

Erin Davis, supervisor of Morelli's in Portrush says she and the staff have been inundated with bikers all week and have dished out mountains of ice cream. So much so that they have run out of certain flavours. It seems even tough guys attending one of the biggest road races in the world need Ferrero Rocher ice cream when the sun and smell of petrol fumes get too much.

LIVE: Over 200 bikers arrive for the NW200

Posted by Belfast Telegraph on Thursday, May 17, 2018

"It has been really busy," she says. "There have been a lot of bikers in and they are big fans of ice cream. They love the six scoop tubs and we have completely sold out of chocolate brownie, Ferrero Rocher and Kinderelli flavours. Bikers love them."

The NW200 Race Week, now in its 89th year, incorporates seven days of music, food and drink, culture and entertainment for all with an estimated 100,000 fans and visitors making the annual trip to the stunning Causeway Coast. And local businesses reap the rewards.

Danny Coyles, owner of the Anchor Bar in Portstewart, says it is the biggest, busiest week of his calendar.

"This week is a massive week for food and drink for us," he says. "We would easily pull in £160,000 in those few days, probably double what we would normally take.

"It's great for the local economy. There will be millions of pounds rolling around here during the week.

"The bars and cafes get the benefit on the week of the North West, then the shops which may be a little bit quieter because of the road closures feel the benefit a bit later when all the hospitality staff who were earning a bit extra on overtime head out and spend in the town."

And it's not just pints bikers like to drink. Gallons of coffee have been consumed over the last few days.

Mannen Montgomery, supervisor of Portstewart's Bob and Berts Coffee Shop says she and her staff love to see bikers from all over the UK descend on their town.

Alastair Seeley celebrates after winning the opening Supersport race at the Vauxhall International North West 200. Second was James Hillier and third Lee Johnston.
Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
Alastair Seeley celebrates after winning the opening Supersport race at the Vauxhall International North West 200. Second was James Hillier and third Lee Johnston. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 17/05/2018 North West 200 2018 Alastair Seeley celebrates with his team after winning the super sport race during this evenings Supersport race in the Vauxhall International North West 200. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 17/05/2018 North West 200 2018 Packed grandstands during this evenings Supersport race in the Vauxhall International North West 200. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 12-5-18 Vauxhall International North West 200 - supersport race 1 Alastair Seeley (EHA Yamaha) leads into York Corner during the 3rd lap of today's supersport race 1 at the Vauxhall International North West 200 in Portrush. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 12-5-18 Vauxhall International North West 200 - supersport race 1 Michael Dunlop ( Honda) during today's supersport race 1 at the Vauxhall International North West 200 in Portrush. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 12-5-18 Vauxhall International North West 200 - superstock race 1 James Hillier (Quattro Plant JG Speed?t Kawasaki) and Michael Rutter (Bathams Racing BMW) during today's superstock race 1 at the Vauxhall International North West 200 in Portrush. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
North West 200 2018 Peter Hickman (60) celebrates his first ever North West 200 winthis during this evenings Superstock race in the Vauxhall International North West 200. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
North West 200 2018 Peter Hickman (60) celebrates his first ever North West 200 winthis during this evenings Superstock race in the Vauxhall International North West 200. Alastair Seeley 2nd and Michael Dinlop 3rd Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
North West 200 2018 Peter Hickman (60) celebrates his first ever North West 200 winthis during this evenings Superstock race in the Vauxhall International North West 200. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
North West 200 2018 Peter Hickman (60) celebrates his first ever North West 200 winthis during this evenings Superstock race in the Vauxhall International North West 200. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 17/05/2018 North West 200 2018 Martin Jessop tastes victory in the super twin race during this evenings Supertwin race in the Vauxhall International North West 200. Jeremy McWilliams 2nd and Joey Thompson 3rd Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 17/05/2018 North West 200 2018 Joey Thompson the youngest rider in the field after his 3rd place with the eldest Jeremy McWilliams 2nd this evenings Supertwin race in the Vauxhall International North West 200. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 17/05/2018 North West 200 2018 Martin Jessop tastes victory in the super twin race during this evenings Supertwin race in the Vauxhall International North West 200. Jeremy McWilliams 2nd and Joey Thompson 3rd Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 17/05/2018 North West 200 2018 Jeremy McWilliams gets a kiss from wife Jill during this evenings Supertwin race in the Vauxhall International North West 200. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
Lee Johnston on the grid at the 2018 Vauxhall International North West 200 on Thursday. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
Hundreds of bikers arrive in Northern Ireland by ferry for the North West 200
Pacemaker Belfast 12-5-18 Vauxhall International North West 200 - superbike practice session James Hillier (Quattro Plant JG Speed?t Kawasaki) during today's superbike practice session at the Vauxhall International North West 200 in Portrush. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 12-5-18 Vauxhall International North West 200 - superbike practice session Alastair Seeley (TYCO BMW) during today's superbike practice session at the Vauxhall International North West 200 in Portrush. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 12-5-18 Vauxhall International North West 200 - superbike practice session Ian Hutchinson (Honda Racing Honda) during today's superbike practice session at the Vauxhall International North West 200 in Portrush. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 12-5-18 Vauxhall International North West 200 - superbike practice session Glenn Irwin (Bewiser Ducati) during today's superbike practice session at the Vauxhall International North West 200 in Portrush. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Glenn Irwin (PBM/Be Wiser Ducati) on his way to pole position for Saturday's Superbike races at the 2018 Vauxhall International North West 200 practice on Thursday. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
Pacemaker Belfast 12-5-18 Vauxhall International North West 200 - superbike practice session Dean Harrison (Silicone Engineering Racing Kawasaki) during today's superbike practice session at the Vauxhall International North West 200 in Portrush. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
William Dunlop (Temple Racing Yamaha) ahead of Martin Jessopp (Riders Motorcycles BMW) during today's superbike practice session at the Vauxhall International North West 200 in Portrush. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
KMR Kawasaki's Jeremy McWilliams gets his lap times from his wife Jill, on the grid during the second 2018 Vauxhall International North West 200 on Thursday. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
NW200 officials on the grid during the second 2018 Vauxhall International North West 200 on Thursday. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
Former race winner, Phillip McCallen hard at work for the BBC during the second 2018 Vauxhall International North West 200 on Thursday. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
Robert Dunlop's mechanic, Liam Beckett was amongst the crowd as several thousand bikers turned out on the North coast tonight to mark the tenth anniversary of the Ballymoney road racer's death.
KMR Kawasaki's Jeremy McWilliams chats with team boss Ryan Farquhar on the grid during the second 2018 Vauxhall International North West 200 on Thursday.
Derek McGee and Jeremy McWilliams give each other the thumbs up on the grid during the second 2018 Vauxhall International North West 200 on Thursday. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
John McGuinness on the grid during the second 2018 Vauxhall International North West 200 on Thursday. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 17/5/2018: Ryan Farquhar on the grid during the second 2018 Vauxhall International North West 200 on Thursday. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 17/5/2018: James Cowton on the grid during the second 2018 Vauxhall International North West 200 on Thursday. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 17/5/2018: Joey Thompson during the second 2018 Vauxhall International North West 200 on Thursday. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 17/5/2018: Michael Rutter and Dean Harrison on the grid during the second 2018 Vauxhall International North West 200 on Thursday. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
Pacemaker Belfast 12-5-18 Vauxhall International North West 200 - supersport practice session Michael Dunlop ( Honda) during today's supersport practice session at the Vauxhall International North West 200 in Portrush. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 12-5-18 Vauxhall International North West 200 - superstock practice session Peter Hickman (Smiths Racing BMW) during today's superstock practice session at the Vauxhall International North West 200 in Portrush. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 17/5/2018: Dan Kneen on the grid during the second 2018 Vauxhall International North West 200 on Thursday. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 17/5/2018: Michael Rutter on the grid during the second 2018 Vauxhall International North West 200 on Thursday. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 17/5/2018: Jeremy McWilliams on the grid during the second 2018 Vauxhall International North West 200 on Thursday. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
Pacemaker Belfast 12-5-18 Vauxhall International North West 200 - supertwins practice session Big crowd at York Corner during today's supertwins practice session at the Vauxhall International North West 200 in Portrush. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press

"It's great to see them here. They are from everywhere, all over Northern Ireland, some from Scotland, England. We all have a laugh with them and a bit of banter. We hear all the craic about the races."

And with good weather forecast for the next few days, Brian McKay from Peter Osborne Butchers on Portstewart's Promenade is busy preparing for the hundreds of barbecues planned in the area.

"We have sold 600lbs of sausages and hundreds of burgers today," he says. "We spent all day yesterday making burgers and kebabs, we were at that from 8am to 6pm last night. The North West 200 usually does bring a lot of business to the town."

Over in Portrush, the Arrasto Cafe on Eglinton Street, has a Biker's Bap special on all week - two sausages and a runny egg between a soft white bun. Owner Gerry McAleese says it's been a good week for business.

"We look forward to it every year," he says. "It's getting bigger and better. We have people in here this week from France, England, Scotland and all over Ireland. We all benefit. The town is busy and the weather really makes it."

But not everyone is happy. Those outside the hospitality industry say they feel little benefit from the extra footfall. Alan Hegarty who runs a T-shirt shop on Eglinton Street says he feels great impact from road closures.

Bikers descend a P&O ferry
Bikers descend a P&O ferry
Danny Coyles of the Anchor Bar
Rebecca Todd from Arrosto Cafe

"It's not bringing business to the town centre, because everything is outside the town centre," he says.

"The roads are closed from 9am to 3pm and then from 5pm to 9pm today.

"People do not have time to leave where they are and come in to shop."

Both Portstewart and Portrush are teeming with bikers. The roar of engines from the practice races can be heard over the crash of waves in both towns, and bikes in their dozens roll past people-watchers camped out on walls or viewing seats along the road. Accents from Cullybackey to Cannes mingle seamlessly.

Nigel McElfatrick, a local man who now lives in Scotland, says he wouldn't miss the event.

"I've been coming to the North West 200 all my life," he says. "I grew up around here and have been coming back here for 20 years to the race. The buzz around the town is brilliant. When everyone gets together on Friday and Saturday it's amazing."

Ralph McElfatrick, who runs the Vintage Motorcycle Show in Portstewart says that the biker community, wherever they come from, is "like one big family".

"The bikers are a community, they are family," he says. "The North West 200 is like a big family reunion. You find that bikers help each other out. And when you meet another biker, they are a brother. We are a band of brothers."

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