Sunday Life

| 16.2°C Belfast

North West 200 chief Mervyn White launches scathing rebuke of Tourism NI chiefs for not attending road race

Close

Alaister Seeley, Glenn Irwin in the marquee with Mervyn Whyte MBE

Alaister Seeley, Glenn Irwin in the marquee with Mervyn Whyte MBE

Alaister Seeley, Glenn Irwin in the marquee with Mervyn Whyte MBE

North West 200 chief Mervyn Whyte delivered a stinging rebuke of Tourism NI after the speed spectacle returned in a blaze of glory on a winning day for Northern Ireland in every sense.

Choked with emotion after an ultra successful week of record crowds and speeds, without mishap, Whyte declared the event the best of his 20 year involvement.

“This was as good as it gets,” insisted Whyte.

“After all we’ve been through, with two years lost to the Covid pandemic, we weren’t sure we’d ever be back but we worked and worked and this was the result. The day was a credit to everyone concerned in making it happen so successfully... our volunteers, the massive crowds but, above all the riders.”

Whyte’s tone changed, however, when asked about the lack of Stormont and Tourism NI support for the event after a well publicised and agreed £800,000 rescue package for the North West and Ulster Grand Prix fell between bureaucratic stools.

Scathing Whyte replied: “This is one of the greatest advertisements of what Northern Ireland has to offer. We had many thousands from around the world here and live TV pictures going to 72 countries.

“Yet not one representative of Tourism NI was in attendance.

“It there had been a golf event going on three miles down the road, they would have been all over it.

“They need to realise the North West is a jewel in our tourism and economic crown with the numbers we attract.

“They need to provide us with help and resources. There is so much more we could do, today was just a foretaste.

“For whatever reason, Tourism NI were not able to sign off on the funding agreed by the Executive. They need to wake up and see sense.”

Sunday Life Sport contacted Tourism NI for comment last night but received no response.

A blind man on a full throttle Superbike would have to concede Whyte has a point.

This was a day when the planets aligned to welcome back the famous old race after a three year pandemic pause.

For once, the weather gods smiled on the event, creating a perfect storm as the biggest crowds seen on the coast in a decade witnessed thrilling race duels at record speeds.

And, in a bonus for the local fans, four out of the six races provided a home winner.

Carrick’s Glenn Irwin was the big winner of the day with two Superbike successes for a record six wins in a row in the class at the North West, now master of all he surveys on the coast road on his Honda machine.

Close

Supertwin Race 6 Glenn Irwin (no 1) takes off during Saturday's Superbike race at the North West 200. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press

Supertwin Race 6 Glenn Irwin (no 1) takes off during Saturday's Superbike race at the North West 200. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press

Supertwin Race 6 Glenn Irwin (no 1) takes off during Saturday's Superbike race at the North West 200. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press

His Carrick townsman and pal, Yamaha mounted evergreen Alastair Seeley, continued his winning run in the Superstock, now on a record 27.

Yorkshire-based Lee Johnston, from Fermanagh, on another Yamaha, weighed in with a Supersport win.

And it would have been a sensational six if Richard Cooper from Leicestershire, riding Kawasakis built by Dungannon’s Ryan Farquhar had been able to hold on to his Supertwins wins, but he was disqualified on a technicality after the conclusion of racing.

This is an event, like no other, made in Northern Ireland, but, as Whyte says, we are left with a feeling of a prophet not fully honoured by this country... make that non-profit.

As we know, the North West is the organisational triumph of a volunteer army, led by Whyte and his team from the Coleraine Motor Club.

There is no doubt the 100,000 fans here yesterday truly appreciate their work and the craft of the competitors.

There was a feeling in the sea air from early morning that something special was about to unfold with the fans out in force after three years of wretched restrictions.

With the weather set fair, they couldn’t help but sense the mood as they set out on their opening sighting lap and they rose to the occasion magnificently.

And yet.. all this does not happen by chance.

Close

Alistair Seeley celebrates his 3rd win of the meeting during the CP Hire Superstock race.Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press

Alistair Seeley celebrates his 3rd win of the meeting during the CP Hire Superstock race.Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press

Alistair Seeley celebrates his 3rd win of the meeting during the CP Hire Superstock race.Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press

Watching the superb BBC NI TV coverage and live streaming still does not convey the magnitude of the organisational feat that puts this spectacular show on the road. It needs to be seen to be believed.

Bike fan and North Antrim MP, Ian Paisley, here again yesterday, also pushed the funding case, saying: “It is a great source of regret the agreed £800,000 funding didn’t land and the North West has again been left to largely fend for itself with local council and business support and for that, they are grateful.

“Yes, Tourism chiefs should have been here to see it. As we all saw here, the North West tells a powerful story about Northern Ireland and it deserves to be funded accordingly.”

For all the obstacles, an event supposedly on life support breathed again yesterday in spectacular fashion.

Without a doubt, the North West needed this day... and Northern Ireland needs the North West.


Top Videos



Privacy