Northern Ireland news

North West 200: what you need to know

Gareth McKeown
03 May, 2016 15:00

THE Vauxhall International North West 200 festival kicks off on Saturday and as well as being Ireland's largest outdoor sporting event it's one of the world's fastest road races.The annual event attracts the finest line-up of road racers of any race on the planet, drawing thousands of visitors to the superfast 8.9 mile circuit that links the towns of Portrush, Portstewart and Coleraine.

Hitting top speeds of over 200mph, racers like Guy Martin, Michael Dunlop and John McGuiness thrill 85,000 fans who come to enjoy the week long festival of speed on roads that locals normally use to make their way to work to every other day of the week.

The North West 200 has become a mecca for motorcycle fans, offering everyone the opportunity to explore the history of road racing alongside enjoying the high speed thrills of a week of racing action on Thursday evening and Saturday. 

Video from Tourism Ireland

Reasons To Go

*The North West 200 attracts the finest line-up of road racers of any race on the planet

* There will also be a host of supporting events throughout the Race Week Festival including a number of family events to keep everyone happy

* The North West 200 is set against the stunning backdrop of the Causeway coast 

* Game of Thrones - Many set locations for the internationally acclaimed series were filmed within a short distance of the racing action.

Tickets

Discounted ticket packages are available online at www.ticketsource.co.uk/northwest200

Alernatively the ticket office on the Portrush Road, Portstewart, is open throughout the week while the roads are open. You can also ring the office on 028 7083 2797.

The Racing

Let's face it this is the main reason why thousands descend upon the North West 200 - the world class road racing. Enjoy eight races in four classes – Superstock, Superbike, Supertwin and Supersport. Tuesday and Thursday mornings have four hours of practice with three races on Thursday evening and five races on Saturday.

Practice begins on Tuesday May 10 from 9.15am to 3pm and on Thursday May 12 from 9.15 to 3pm.

The competitive action starts on Thursday evening from 5pm to 9pm and then concludes on Saturday from 9.30am – 7pm

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The Superstock Race

As the name Superstock suggests, this class is for ‘stock’ road-going production motorcycles which feature only minor modifications, including the removal of all stock road equipment such as lights and mirrors.

Despite the Superstock bikes being very close to standard, a 1000cc machine still produces in excess of 180bhp and can lap most circuits only a few seconds off full Superbike specification machines. The class is a breeding ground for up and coming racing talent and provide riders with a great chance to showcase their talent without spending big money. Past winners have included Alastair Seeley, Bruce Anstey and Keith Amor.

The Superbike Race

The NW200 features two Superbike races on race day and these races are seen by the fans as the main events. Past winners have included some of the road racing greats, such as Joey and Robert Dunlop, Phillip McCallen, Carl Fogarty and of course the likes of Michael Rutter and John McGuinness.

These machines produce in excess of 200bhp and are capable of speeds of more than 200mph. In 2012 Martin Jessop was clocked through the speed trap at 208mph, the current record.

The Supertwin Race

This class was first introduced to the North West at the 2012 event and proved extremely popular as it gained a very strong entry. The KMR Team proudly claimed the top 3 positions on the podium, Ryan Farquhar in first, Michael Rutter in Second and newcomer Jeremy McWilliams in third. Two Supertwin races are scheduled, the first on Thursday evening and second during Saturday race day.

The Supersport Races

These machines are powered by engines up to 600cc. This popular class has seen some of the most exciting races ever at the NW200, with past winners Alastair Seeley, Ian Hutchinson and Steve Plater.

Where to Watch

Along the 8.9 mile circuit that links Portstewart, Coleraine and Portrush there are a total of 15 vantage points to get the best view of the action. Each is close to refreshments and toilet facilities

Parking

While Translink do offer a bus service for spectators there are three car parks close to the action and convenient for visitors. Official car parks are located by the paddock on the golf course and beside the Inn on the Coast. All car parks have official signage.

Motorists attending the practice sessions and race events are urged to arrive in good time and to make full use of official car parks. Do not park where your vehicle will cause an obstruction to public or private entrances, and in particular, to designated ambulance routes that are signposted, and which must be kept clear at all times.

Who To Look Out For? 

Aastair Seeley - The 36-year-old Carrickfergus rider and double British champion currently stands level with the late Robert Dunlop on the all-time winners' list with 15 victories. After three victories in the Supersport and Superbike classes in 2015 one win will put Seeley out on his own as the most successful rider ever at the North West 200.

Lee Johnston - The 26-year-old Fermanagh rider is very much a star in the making and in 2014 completed a double in the Supertwin class; bravely picking himself up off the tarmac after getting taken out of a race winning position in the Supersport encounter. Last year he continued to show his promise denying Alastair Seeley victory in Saturday's Superstock race in a thrilling spectacle.

Jeremy McWilliams - At the ripe old age of 52 the Belfast rider is back again at the North West 200. The former 250cc Grand Prix race winner and Moto GP racer only took up road racing after retiring from full time track competition and will be looking to make it at hat-trick of wins in the Supertwin class

Traffic Information 

Police are advising motorists and residents fronting onto circuit roads in the Coleraine, Portrush and Portstewart areas that practice sessions will take place on Tuesday May10 and Thursday May 12 between 9.15am and 3pm.

There will be a further road closure on the Thursday to facilitate racing from 5pm to 9pm.

Drivers are also asked to comply with the directions of police officers on point duty before and after the races.

Motorists should expect delays on all roads leading to and from the circuit and should make appropriate allowances in order to complete their journey safely.

Any subsequent amendment to the race week schedule will be advised to the public via the North West 200 website, BBC NI TV and radio and the NW200 Facebook and Twitter feed.

03 May, 2016 15:00 Northern Ireland news

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