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NW200 Gears Up for 80th Anniversary Race Day

By: Garret Cashman | Published 10 January 2009, 22:52 | Views: 2,362 | tags: nw200, jmf team millsport yahama, rob mac racing, mervyn whyte, cllr david barbour, cassie riggs, michael rutter, coke zero
Historic bikes and vintage costumes were on show alongside their modern counterparts at Belfast’s Waterfront Hall, as Coleraine & District Motor Club got on the starting grid to mark the famous North West 200’s 80th anniversary. The original race, one of Ireland’s oldest, was first run on April 20th, 1929 whilst this year’s 80th anniversary event will take place on Saturday 16th May.
Clerk of Course Mervyn Whyte MBE was delighted to announce that in this special year local company and long time supporter of the North West 200, the Kennedy Group, will again back the race as title sponsor but will be closely supported by a new associate sponsor Coke Zero. 

Outlining the new partnership Mervyn Whyte said, “Coleraine based Kennedy Group over the years has invested much needed funds, sponsorship in kind and a great personal commitment from its directors and we’re immensely grateful to Alistair, Chris, Adele and all the Kennedy family for their contributions. It’s wonderful to have them back on board for our 80th anniversary.”
Alistair Kennedy, Commercial Director of the Kennedy Group said, “We’re pleased to play our part in driving forward this hugely important sporting and tourism event for Northern Ireland and we look forward to a vintage 80th year.”   

Whyte continued, “The Club is also pleased to welcome back old friends Coca-Cola who as high profile sponsors of the North West from 1992 until 2002 helped raise the international profile of the event. It’s fitting that this global corporate which in 2009 also marks its 70th year in Northern Ireland, is back on board for the road race’s 80th birthday. We believe the combination of a world renowned consumer giant and a highly successful local company will form a great team aiming to make this year’s North West 200 one of the best ever.”

Attending this year’s launch were North West 200 heroes Steve Plater, six times winner at the North West and riding under the HM Plant Honda team banner together with NW200 speed trap record holder and winner of 12 North West trophies, Michael Rutter, who recently confirmed he will ride a new NW200 R1 Yamaha bike under Rob Mac Racing. Also at the launch was last year’s star of the meeting Michael Dunlop and his brother William with Michael hoping to compete on board the famous Norton brand. Other riders included Carrick’s Alastair Seeley, last year’s Superstock race winner and part of the JMF Team Millsport Yahama.

Race Format

Clerk of Course Mervyn Whyte also summarized minor changes to this year’s race format. “Whilst we will continue to operate a seven race programme, we have decided to dispense with the 400cc class which was run in conjunction with the 125 race. In recent years both the quality and numbers of 400cc entrants has diminished and we believe it’s no longer a viable option to continue to run this class. 

“We also plan to change the running order during both practice nights and this year each practice session will begin with the 125/250 bikes followed by the Superbike and Superstock machines and finally the 600cc bikes. Last year’s new GP style grid layout was very successful and will remain for 2009 as will the ‘Start Lights’ and our digital clocks which provided time checks during practice and warm-up sessions.”
Funding and Sponsorship

North West 200 organisers also paid tribute to the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, Coleraine Borough Council, Sport Northern Ireland and 2&4 Wheel Motorsport Group for their financial and strategic support. Explained Mervyn Whyte, “As the North West has grown substantially in recent years and has developed a much more visible international profile, we have required extensive funding from both government and private sponsors in a bid to keep raising the bar. We are indebted to our government and regional council partners for their ongoing contribution and support.

“We have just recruited a Business and Operations Manager who will take up the newly introduced role later in January and we are particularly grateful to DCAL and Coleraine Borough Council for their help and funding with this new appointment.”

Sports Minister, Gregory Campbell said:  “This year will bring birthday celebrations for the North West 200 and at the grand age of 80 the race has more appeal than ever. The exciting course on one of the most scenic parts of Northern Ireland continues to attract riders and spectators from all over the world. I am pleased to say that once again my Department is supporting the North West 200, helping to deliver a first class race which is world famous.”

Commenting on the significance of the North West 200 within the Coleraine region, Mayor of Coleraine, Cllr David Barbour said, “Each year this spectacular event grows in stature and entices more and more spectators from abroad to the Borough of Coleraine and I congratulate the team on celebrating the event’s eightieth year.  The North West 200 event has recognised support from some of the biggest sporting names in history and more recently from our political ministers who understand the economic importance of this event not only to Coleraine, but to the whole of Northern Ireland.  The promotional and economic boost the North West 200 brings as a result of attracting tourists and enthusiasts from around the world cannot be underestimated.  The Borough of Coleraine has so much to offer in terms of hosting premier events, and for tourists wishing to experience our culture, history and of course scenery.  As Mayor of Coleraine, I personally welcome the competitors and the spectators back again in 2009 and look forward to this major professional event being held on the north coast.”

Mervyn Whyte also thanked this year’s title and associate sponsors the Kennedy Group and Coke Zero. Speaking on behalf of Coke Zero, Maire Campbell, Public Affairs and Communications Manager for Coca-Cola HBC Northern Ireland said, “We are delighted to be supporting the 80th anniversary year of this highly respected sporting event. As a local company we are proud to partner with the Coleraine & District Motor Club, the Kennedy Group, local funders, sponsors and race organisers on delivering a spectacular 80th anniversary event.”

New Logo and Merchandise

In the latter half of 2008 Coleraine & District Motor Club completed the legal process to trade mark the NW200 brand and in 2009 will launch a full range of merchandise featuring the new black, silver and red Kennedy/Coke Zero logo. The clothing range which will be sold online as well as during Race Week will include NW200 fleeces, polo shirts and caps. The Club have registered both ‘North West 200’ and ‘NW200’ and the process ensures only licensed merchandisers have permission to use the unique and famous North West 200 brand.

Media Partner

BBC Sport Northern Ireland is set to partner the North West 200 for the third consecutive year. Shane Glynn, Editor of Sport, BBC NI said, “The team is really looking forward to another fantastic NW200. We’ll have a full schedule of pre and post race programmes across television, radio and online and the highlights programmes on TV will again be available both locally and via BBC network. Our live online coverage will again be a major focus and we’re delighted it has consistently attracted huge numbers of viewers from across the globe.” 

Thanking Shane Glynn, Stephen Watson, Roger Anderson and the whole BBC team, Mervyn Whyte said, “Our partnership with BBC Sport NI has been hugely successful and each year the team generates higher quality and more exciting coverage which reaches to the far corners of the world. We look forward to our next press conference which will be hosted by BBC Sport during February.

New NW200 Race Team Partnership

The NW200 brand will continue to participate in closed circuit racing during the 2009 British Superbike Championship as well as taking part in road races including the North West 200. As announced towards the end of 2008 the team has joined forces with Rob Mac Racing and top rider Michael Rutter will ride the new NW 200 R1Yamaha. The bike’s first public outing will be at Brands Hatch on 11th April at the first round of the BSB Championship, following pre season testing during February and March. “The British Superbike Championship proved to be an excellent marketing tool for the North West 200 during the 2008 season and we are very excited to be entering the 2009 series with a new partner.” commented Alistair Kennedy.

80th Anniversary Programme

Irish Racer magazine publishers, Careva are planning to produce an extra special revamped NW200 programme packed full of features and interesting facts to mark the 80th anniversary. As well as becoming a collector’s item the 2009 programme should help generate much needed additional sales.  

Explained Paul Lindsay, Publishing Editor, “Careva Publishing is delighted to be involved with the International North West 200 in its 80th year. Having published the official programme since 2002, we at Careva feel very much ‘part of the furniture’ and this milestone gives our team something fresh to get their teeth into during 2009. As the island of Ireland’s leading outdoor sporting event, the NW200 is something all of Ireland should be very proud of and the 80th birthday celebrations will surely see even more people making a pilgrimage to the North Coast during the 2009 Festival.”

Looking forward to the North West 200’s 80th year, Chris Blair Chairman of the MCUI U.C. said, “We congratulate the North West organisers on this momentous anniversary and we look forward to an excellent day’s racing on May 16th.

Corporate Hospitality

Stonebridge Catering & Events will again manage the NW200’s hugely popular hospitality marquee.  In a continual attempt to improve and optimise the level of service for this major international event, and in agreement with CDMC, the 2009 building will be a raised single storey structure. In addition to the excellent value corporate packages available on Race Day, the marquee will be open for food and beverages daily during Race Week and will also offer live entertainment. As demand is expected to be high for the 80th Anniversary celebrations, enquiries should be directed to Stonebridge Catering (028 3884 9393) or


The North West 200 website –  HYPERLINK "" has since its inception in March 2007 received almost 15 million hits. During 2008 Race Week 6 million people from all over the world logged onto the site from countries as far afield as South Korea, Russia, New Zealand and Canada. With financial support from the Department, Culture, Arts and Leisure the Coleraine Club is planning to further develop the NW200’s online activities and is now in the process of securing a company to upgrade the website and allow for e-commerce sales of merchandise, programmes and paddock passes.

Road Safety

The BikeSafe initiative will again play a key role at the 2009 North West 200. During May 2009 the Police Service will link up with the organisers Coleraine & District Motor Club, Honda UK, BMW Motorad, Kawasaki UK, Adelaide Insurance Services, Blackhorse Motorcycle Finance, Bridgestone Tyres, BBC Northern Ireland, P&O Irish Ferries, Stena Line, the Institute of Advanced Motorists, race teams and riders to promote a safe motor sport spectacle for everyone. BikeSafe co-ordinator, Constable Bill Holden said, “We will be encouraging bikers to leave the speed and racing to the professionals on closed circuits. We have an excellent relationship with the Coleraine Club and many of the top teams and riders. We all want spectators and bikers to enjoy this world class racing event and stay safe on our roads.
As part of the initiative we plan to have interactive BikeSafe display stands on ferries bound for Northern Ireland and the BikeSafe team will be based in the Paddock promoting road safety throughout Race Week.”

Race Week Festival

Working alongside Coleraine Borough Council, planning is already underway for this year’s Race Week Festival and the organising team plans to introduce several new events.

Exhibition & Display Partner
The newest member of the North West 200 support services team is Event the Belfast based design and build exhibition and display company. As a sponsor in kind, Event will provide the NW200 with a range of branded exhibition display equipment for use at media conferences and trade shows in Ireland and the UK and in addition will be providing the NW200 and its sponsors with innovative solutions for branding the NW200 circuit.

NW200 Charity 2009

ChildLine, the NSPCC’s free 24-hour confidential helpline for children and young people has been nominated as the official 2009 charity. The North West 200 has supported a range of local charities over the past number of years including NI Hospice Care and NI Cancer Fund for Children.

NSPCC community fundraising manager Cassie Riggs said, “We’re pleased that NW200 organisers have chosen to support ChildLine as it is a vital service for children and young people in need of help.” All funds raised during Race Week will support ChildLine’s counselling services which has bases in Foyle and Belfast.

Race Format
Practice Night: Tuesday 12th May
1st Session Newcomers (un-timed practice)
2nd Session 125cc/250cc machines
3rd Session Supersbikes/Superstock Machines
4th Session  600cc  machines
Practice Night: Thursday 14th May
1st Session 125cc/250cc machines
2nd Session Supersbikes/Superstock Machines
3rd Session 600cc  machines

Race Day, Saturday 16th May
1st Race: 250cc Race
2nd Race: Superbike Race 1
3rd Race: 600cc Supersport Race 1
4th Race: 125cc Race
5th Race: Superstock Race
6th Race: North West 200 Superbike Race
7th Race: 600cc Supersport Race 2
The 250cc and 125cc races will be 4-lap races. All others, excluding the North West 200 Superbike Race will be 5 laps, and the North West 200 Superbike race will be 6 laps.


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nw200 r1 09

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Adz | 13 January 2009, 00:39
that bike looks sweet...
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