Top-quality field of riders gear up for a Titanic NW200
The 2015 Vauxhall International North West 200 opening practice session is just seven short weeks away and at yesterday's official launch and Meet the Stars event in the iconic Titanic Building in Belfast, there was certainly no sinking feeling from a large selection of this year's main protagonists who turned out to greet the fans.
Twelve-time NW200 winner Alastair Seeley, now with Tyco BMW for 2015, was joined at the Titanic launch by one of last year's North West 200 Superbike winners, William Dunlop.
Super-fast female competitor Maria Costello was also in attendance along with TT legend John McGuinness, quirky local man Lee Johnston, Ryan Farquhar, Peter Hickman, Dean Harrison, Michael Rutter and Jeremy McWilliams.
As always, the man at the helm was NW200 Event Director Mervyn Whyte, who said of his 2015 line-up: "The North West 200 is delighted to have the very best road racers on the grid this year.
"Our race partners and sponsors have been able to share our launch day with these brilliant riders and the fans of the North West had a great opportunity to chat to their favourite racers during the special Meet the Stars event in the evening."
Outlining details of the eight-race programme, which is spread over Thursday evening and Saturday, Whyte revealed new race sponsors for 2015.
With the Monster Energy Superbike race and Spidi Leathers Superstock race already announced, Bet McLean is the latest company to provide Northern Ireland's premier road race with support, having committed to sponsoring Race Day Saturday's Supersport event.
Paul McLean, of McLean Bookmakers, said: "It is one of the showpiece events on the sporting calendar and hopefully the Bet McLean Supersport race will signal the start of a wonderful day's racing."
The race will also enjoy the continued support of title sponsors Vauxhall Cars for a third year, Coleraine Borough Council and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board.
The event was given an extra boost with the announcement that Ian Hutchinson will race an MV Agusta 675cc triple for the Tsingtao/Hampshire MV team. The 35-year-old will race the Italian machine alongside his PBM Motorsport ZX10R Kawasaki Superbike and Superstock machines at the Triangle.
Hutchinson, who is back to full race fitness after overcoming a horrific career-threatening injury, said of the deal: "Paul Bird wasn't building any 600s so I looked at all the options and I got talking to Dave Tyson at Hampshire MV about the 675 bike.
"I've sat on the bike now and I want to wait until it is built for me to ride with the gear change on the right and the MV factory electronics, so it has the same specification I will race with at the North West and TT."
The eight-race programme for this year's 2015 Vauxhall International North West 200 is as follows: Thursday evening: EventServ Supersport Race, Vauxhall Supertwin Race, Spidi Superstock Race.
Saturday: Bet McLean Supersport Race, Monster Energy Superbike Race, Anchor Complex Supertwin Race, CP Hire Superstock Race, Vauxhall North West 200 Superbike Race.