WHYTE CALLS

Mervyn Whyte has called on the Government to stop dragging its feet and reward the contribution made by the North West 200 to the Northern Ireland economy and tourism industry.

In addition to extra cash, Whyte is seeking a Road Closing Order that allows organisers the opportunity to switch racing to an alternative day in the event of an unfavourable weather forecast in the future.

“We need the freedom of a more flexible Road Closing Order and we need more funding - what the North West receives from the Government is a drop in the ocean compared to other events of a similar stature,” said Whyte.

“It would need a lot of work because we are running an event in a residential area and we’d have to talk with the public and residents about our plans, plus we’d have to take account of the hospitality sales on the Saturday.

“So it wouldn’t be plain sailing but it would give us more flexibility if we had warnings of bad weather. The Road Closing Order at the moment allows us three days and I’ve talked to Government in the past and met with Danny Kennedy [Minister, Department of Regional Development] to discuss this and he is very aware of what my thinking is.

“I believe that Peter Robinson has made a statement saying that they will look at flexibility for the North West 200, although I haven’t seen it yet.

“Things aren’t right at the moment with the system we have in place and I just feel for the spectators and the competitors and everyone who paid money to come to the event only for it to be called off. We did all that we could but the weather beat us in the end.It was so disappointing on Saturday because if we’d had the weather I think it would have been an absolutely brilliant event.” Whyte conceded that Saturday’s cancellation would have big financial implications for the race festival.