Belfast Telegraph

NW200's Mervyn Whyte to continue role as Event Director

By Roy Harris

The Coleraine and District Motor Club yesterday put an end to speculation surrounding North West 200 Event Director Mervyn Whyte’s future, announcing that the 67-year-old will continue in his role.

There had been speculation after this year’s successful event that Whyte might step down after 17 years in charge of Northern Ireland’s leading road race, but he will now begin on a succession strategy for the future management of the event after his eventual retirement.

Speaking after the announcement, Whyte explained that he had taken some time to consider his position and spoke to those close to him before reaching his decision to stay on.

“In the months following this year’s North West 200, I have given a lot of thought to whether the time was right to call it a day,” he said.

“Anyone who has an insight into the world of international road racing will appreciate how demanding the all-year demands of organising an event such as the North West 200 has become, and I had been contemplating the option of retiring.

“But after talking things through with my wife Hazel, the rest of my family and my North West 200 colleagues, it became clear how big a task the handover to my successor was going to be.

“I am extremely fortunate to have fantastic support from the North West 200 Management Team and the many volunteers of Coleraine and District Motor Club, and I simply could not have considered walking away at such a critical time without the necessary steps having been taken to ensure the future success of this magnificent event.”

Chairman of Coleraine and District Motor Club, John Bolton, paid tribute to the sterling work of Mervyn and his team.

He said, “The event has taken massive steps forward in recent years and that is down to the vision and planning created by Mervyn and his team.

“As a club we are extremely proud of how far the NW200 has developed as an international road race and fully appreciate the importance of the event for the race fans, the competitors and the Causeway Coast business community.

“The next couple of years will be extremely important for us as our succession plan will enable Mervyn to gradually hand over the reins to his current NW200 colleagues Fergus MacKay (Events Operations Manager) and Gillian Lloyd (Event Co-ordinator).”

Whyte and his team have had a successful time in promoting the North West 200 and the Causeway Coast as a tourist destination, with a recent Economic Impact Survey, commissioned by Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, confirming a huge economic return, the event generating £12.3 million to the local community while millions tune in to the event via BBC television, radio, live streaming and social media.

A special landmark anniversary is on the horizon, and Whyte explained: “In 2019 it will be the 90th anniversary of the North West 200 and we are planning events to celebrate this major milestone.

“In comparison with some one-off sporting events which are often provided with a great deal of public funding, our races are an annual event that have been taking place for nine decades.

“Year on year the NW200 brings visitors and generates business for Northern Ireland and the North Coast area.

“This has grown massively over the past 10 years and we have created a strong foundation and a legacy for the future that I want to ensure will continue for many years to come.”

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