The 2014 Vauxhall North West 200 was given a spectacular start in Belfast’s Titanic building at last Monday’s official launch.
A host of top road racers, including John McGuinness, William and Michael Dunlop, Ian Hutchinson, Alastair Seeley, Josh Brookes, Stuart Easton, Ryan Farquhar, Keith Amor, Steve Mercer, Peter Hickman and Jeremy McWilliams joined Event Director, Mervyn Whyte, MBE, to announce the best starting line-up of any road race on the planet in 2014.
“The North West is delighted to have the very best road racers on the grid at our race this year,” Mervyn said afterwards.
“Not only will we have all the top stars who race in all the other International races but the North West has also attracted entries from superb riders like Alastair Seeley, Stuart Easton and Jeremy McWilliams who won’t be competing at any other road races this year.”
“We have been able to share our launch day with these brilliant riders as well as our race partners and sponsors and enthusiastic fans who enjoyed our new Meet the Riders event on Monday evening.”
The announcements of an additional extra lap to both of Saturday’s Superbike races and the presentation of a new Man of the Meeting award in memory of the late, great Robert Dunlop, were met with universal approval.
“There will be even more great action for the fans to savour with the Superbike events being run over seven laps this year,” Mervyn revealed.
“The rider who comes out top over the two days of racing on Thursday and Saturday will be presented with the specially commissioned Robert Dunlop trophy by the Dunlop family.” .
The Superstock and Supersport races will run over six laps as normal with both Supertwins events taking in four circuits.
In an attempt to eradicate any disadvantage suffered by riders who fall foul of wet and dry practice sessions, a new alternate grid positioning system will also be introduced for 2014.
“We currently allocate grid positions based upon practice timings over Tuesday and Thursday’s practice sessions but if one session is wet and the other dry and a rider hits trouble in the dry he will lose out,” Whyte explained.
“If the weather changes this year from one session to the other we will alternate the grid positions along the lines of the BSB system using times from both practices.
“It will be a fairer system for everyone.”
“We are also pleased to announce that we have the continued support of our race partners Vauxhall, as title sponsor, Coleraine Borough Council and the BBC.” Whyte continued.
“We also have the backing of our previous race sponsors Vauxhall, Ballymoney Borough Council, EventServ, CP Hire and the Anchor Complex alongside new sponsors Milwaukee Power Tools and Pirtek.”
Another addition to the event’s support network comes from Feridax.
They, under the brand names of Shoei and Sidi, will sponsor Metropole corner and the digital clock on the start and finish grid.
Japanese bike giant Honda will also provide six machines for travelling marshals and medics.
“The North West 200 has also received a significant new commitment from the Northern Ireland Tourist Board over the next three years.” Whyte also explained.
“This will ensure the continued success of our event and help us to build for the future.”
Already there are significant course improvements with over two miles of the track having been resurfaced recently.
There will also be more car parking at the start and finish area and extra big screens positioned around the course for fans as well as free Wifi being introduced to the paddock area.
With the new flexible road closing legislation now in place for 2014, Northern Ireland’s biggest sporting event is set for for a great week of racing beginning with the opening practice session on Tuesday, May 13th.