Belfast Telegraph

Now North West 200 aims to speed up race schedule

By Paul Lindsay

A number of significant changes are to be implemented at next year's International North West 200 - and not before time.

Grid numbers will be reduced and race turnaround times drastically improved as the May spectacular aims to step up its game in 2016.

Event Director Mervyn Whyte outlined the changes after a forensic review of this year's event, including the serious incident in the Superstock race where local racer Stephen Thompson tragically lost a limb and a spectator was critically injured.

Whyte explained: "As an event that continues to attract the highest quality entry of any road race in the world, the Coleraine and District Motor Club are completely committed to maintaining the North West 200's position as a sporting occasion that is immensely enjoyable for competitors and spectators alike.

"Each year we review every aspect of the event, from safety considerations to the satisfaction of riders and fans. Thankfully, those involved in the crash in the opening Superstock race are now well on the way to recovery and a comprehensive investigation of every aspect of the incident will soon be completed."

Speaking of the changes for 2016, which will focus on safety measures for competitors and spectators alike, Whyte added: "We have taken on board the views of everyone involved in the race and have been engaged in intensive consultation with fans, team principals and riders over the past four months.

"Our aim is to improve the race organisation, making its operation both faster and more efficient."

Reducing race grids in size is the first change the Coleraine and District Motor Club will make, with less riders and machines starting in each wave.

Read more:

NW200 crash biker Stephen Thompson 'can't wait to get back racing'

North West 200 horror crash woman says it's a miracle she is alive 

Secondly, riders and machines will leave the grid for their pre-race sighting lap in larger groups than is currently the case.

Thirdly - and most significantly - it is proposed that when riders return to the grid following the sighting lap, they will take up their race formation and the race will begin immediately, providing there has been no deterioration in weather conditions that would require tyre changes.

In recent years the 'faffing about' on the grid before races has led to frustrating delays for the fans.

And, unfortunately for the North West 200 organisers, their outstanding consideration towards the media, in particular their BBC broadcast partner's initiation of grid interviews between sighting laps and race action, has also been a bug-bear for fans around the 8.9-mile circuit.

Everyone is fully aware of the value of television coverage for event sponsors and partners, but having lost a number of races from the programme over the years - most notably the feature race on more than one occasion - then a seamless transition between sighting laps and racing is a must.

The Club went on: "These measures are focussed on saving time within the race organisation and to augment their effect, less team and media personnel will be permitted on to the grid. Media interviews will also be prohibited after the sighting lap."

Communication between organisers and race teams has also been heavily criticised in the past with the old adage, 'no news is good news' not a recipe for success in the modern era.

This will also be addressed for next year's event as the Whyte also explained: "To improve communication to the teams and riders on the grid, and to the spectators around the course, more frequent and up to date announcements will be shared with everyone through BBC Radio Ulster's live commentary team and via the on course PA system. More speakers will also be deployed around the course.

"Over the next few months the North West 200 organisers will be ensuring these changes are effectively conveyed to everyone involved in the race.

"To have the maximum effect they will require the co-operation of everyone, from riders, teams and spectators alike and we look forward to working together to achieve our common goal of a safe and spectacular week's racing at the 2016 North West 200."

Belfast Telegraph


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