So, a small trip to the NW200 was on the cards. I really wanted to go to the isle of Man TT but it was getting a bit expensive by the time I got myself together to book a bed and passage. So I thought, why not go to the NW200?……It just so happened it`s held in Northern Ireland, a place I’d wanted to visit to ages; mainly to see the Giants Causeway and the Carrick a Rede rope bridge. I`d never really thought about the motor racing calendar, although bikes were a bit of a passion, so damn it all, why not!?
The more I read about it, the more it seemed like the perfect International meet for a newbie. I`d touched down in Belfast before, obviously visiting the (in)famous Crown Bar, but never ventured out of the city. However, little be known to me at the outset, I was in for a real treat! Coming out of the city centre, we hit the coastline (not literally) which was absolutely superb. The Giro de Italia had been there the week earlier, so there were still pink painted sheep, B&Bs bedecked with pink bunting and a host of pink bicycles strewn in every field and garden. Magnificent!
I didn’t really know much about the NW200, the TT had always been the sexy race and the one which everyone had heard off, so thought I’d better read up about it and I did dig up some interesting facts!
It`s a motorcycle race meeting held each May; a street circuit made up of public roads over 8.970miles. It’s a triangular circuit linking Coleraine, Portstewart and Portrush to form a course which was originally run over 200 miles as a handicap before it changing to its current format. That of a number of races each running between 4 and 6 laps each with all riders competing against each other, rather than the clock (as in the isle of Man TT). And this year, Ireland`s premier road race was celebrating its 85th birthday.
Since 1992, the Northwest has been for Superbikes. Ten riders have recorded three or more wins in a single meeting – John Williams, Joey Dunlop, Steve Cull, Robert Dunlop, Phillip McCallen, David Jefferies, Michael Rutter, Bruce Anstey, Steve Plater and Alastair Seeley.
John McGuinness` 6 race wins (with 16 podium finishes) currently span 12 years with his first win, the 250cc race, coming in 2000 and his most recent, the Superbike occurring in 2012.
People seemed quite shocked that when Michael Dunlop, the four time TT winner, split from Honda during the winter, to race a factory backed BMW, as he had won races in every meet he had been in, last year
And as for the ever popular Guy Martin (my favourite as Bruce says on `Strictly`), he was still chasing down a maiden North West win, although he had `podiumed` the previous year (coming 3rd) on the Thursday night`s Supersport event, and held an overall total of 5 NW200 podium appearances. This time he made the podium in 2nd place.
The start of the NW200 saw 14 former winners on the grid with 56 wins between them. Bruce Anstey made his debut in 2002, setting pole position and then winning the production race. The kiwi has finished on the podium at least once every year since his debut, and for the 2014 NW200, he went on to win the Saturday Supersport race.
Apparently around 2 million people from all around the world tuned in on line to watch what is Ireland’s largest sporting event, and one of the world’s fastest road races. It was certainly the most exciting week end of the year for me. The adrenalin coupled with the craic, scenery, Guinness, and hospitality of the people certainly have made it one of the most memorable.