Negotiations are underway with prospective new title sponsors of the North West 200 following confirmation that Vauxhall’s involvement as the headline backers of the event has ended.
After five years, Vauxhall Motors UK’s contract concluded at the close of this year’s international race meeting in May.
A new overall sponsor is being sought ahead of the event’s 90th anniversary in 2019.
Event Director, Mervyn Whyte, confirmed talks have begun with several major companies over title sponsorship of the race next spring.
He said: “We have obviously been fully aware that the Vauxhall contract was ending in 2018 and discussions are already underway with several interested parties.
“2019 and our 90th anniversary is a landmark occasion for the North West 200 and we are now looking forward to celebrating it with new commercial partners.”
Paying tribute to Vauxhall, Whyte said the initial deal with the car company had been for three years, which was then extended into 2017 and 2018.
“We have enjoyed a very strong relationship with Vauxhall,” added the NW200 race chief.
“Vauxhall began as a race sponsor in their first year in 2013 and then took over the title sponsorship 12 months later.
“The original deal was for a three-year period but such was the success of the partnership, it was extended for another two years.
“The Coleraine and District Motor Club are very grateful for the support we have received from Vauxhall and would like to put on record our sincerest thanks.”
Race week gets underway next year from May 12, with the main race schedule being held on Saturday, May 18.
Earlier this season, British Superbike rider Glenn Irwin won both flagship races around the 8.9-mile Triangle course on the PBM Be Wiser Ducati.
Fellow Carrick man Alastair Seeley increased his record haul of wins to 24 as he notched up a treble, winning both Supersport races on the EHA Racing Yamaha plus the second Superstock race, when he turned the tables on Smiths BMW rider Peter Hickman.
The meeting was widely acclaimed as one of the best for the North West 200 under Whyte’s 18-year tenure.
The 68-year-old confirmed last year that a ‘succession strategy’ had been put in place ahead of his retirement from the helm of Ireland’s biggest road race.
Although no timescale was put on Whyte’s departure, the 90th anniversary meeting next May could serve as a fitting platform for the Limavady man to leave his role as Event Director.
Control of the event will be passed over to Fergus McKay (Event Operations Manager) and Gillian Lloyd (Event Co-ordinator).
Confirming the implementation of a ‘succession strategy’ in September 2017, Whyte said: “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.”
A number of special events are being planned to mark the 90th anniversary milestone of the famous international road race in 2019.