NW200: Whyte to remain at helm as ‘succession strategy’ put in place

North West 200 Event Director Mervyn Whyte, MBE, pictured with Event Co-ordinator Gillian Lloyd and Operations Manager, Fergus McKay.
North West 200 Event Director Mervyn Whyte, MBE, pictured with Event Co-ordinator Gillian Lloyd and Operations Manager, Fergus McKay.

North West 200 Event Director Mervyn Whyte will remain at the helm of the international road race while a ‘succession strategy’ is put in place to ensure a smooth transition following his retirement.

North West 200 Event Director Mervyn Whyte will remain at the helm of the international road race while a ‘succession strategy’ is put in place to ensure a smooth transition following his retirement.

Whyte, who is 67-years-old, is likely to remain in his role for the next two years at least, with plans already underway to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the international road race in 2019.

Although there is no timescale on Whyte’s departure, the event’s milestone birthday in less than two years’ time could serve as a fitting platform for the Limavady man to exit stage left.

Whyte, who has been in charge of the North West 200 for 17 years, said the scale of the task ahead in handing the reins to his successor convinced him to continue his involvement for the foreseeable future.

“In the months following this year’s NW200 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 round demands of organising an event such as the North West 200 has become.

“I had been considering 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 NW200 Management Team and the many volunteers of Coleraine & 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.”

Reflecting on this year’s meeting, which was book-ended by a memorable feature Superbike race after a frustrating day beset by inclement weather and lengthy delays, Whyte said the pulsating duel between Carrick riders Glenn Irwin and Alastair Seeley had provided a fitting finale.

“We enjoyed a wonderful week of racing at this year’s event, which culminated in the fantastic dice between Glenn Irwin and Alastair Seeley in the feature Superbike race.

“That race brought the curtain down on a incredible week for everyone involved and went some way to repaying all the support I have received from the fans and my race team over many years.”

Highlighting the significance of the 90th anniversary year in 2019, Whyte added: “2019 sees the 90th anniversary of the North West 200 and we are currently planning events to celebrate this major date in our calendar.”

John Bolton, Chairman of Coleraine & District Motor Club, said the next two years will be an important time for the North West 200 before control of the event is passed over to Fergus McKay (Event Operations Manager) and Gillian Lloyd (Event Co-ordinator).

“The event has taken massive steps forward in recent years and that is down to the vision and planning created by Mervyn and the North West 200 team,” he said.

“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 and competitors as well as 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 (Event Operations Manager) and Gillian Lloyd (Event Co-ordinator).”

A recent Economic Impact Survey commissioned by Causeway Coast & Glens Borough Council revealed that the North West 200 produces a huge economic return for Northern Ireland and the North Coast area, generating a £12.3 million input to the local economy.

Over 20 per-cent of the 185,000 spectator admissions to North West 200 Race week events are visitors from overseas, booking 69,744 hotel and B&B beds.

The North West continues to attract a huge television audience. This year, the BBC broadcast race action to 357,000 viewers UK wide with another 270,000 local people tuning in.

Around 340,000 fans watched the races worldwide via live streaming, with 329,000 catching up via the BBC iPlayer.