North West 200
|Most wins (rider)||Robert Dunlop (15)|
|Most wins (manufacturer)||Honda (84)|
The North West 200 is a motorcycle race meeting held each May in Northern Ireland. The course is a street circuit, made up of public roads running between the towns of Portstewart, Coleraine and Portrush (the Triangle) is one of the fastest in the world, with speeds in excess of 200 mph (320 km/h). In practice for the 2012 event Martin Jessopp was clocked at 208 mph (335 km/h). It is one of around fifteen events run on public roads between April and October throughout the island of Ireland. It is the largest annual sporting event in Ireland, with the race weekend attracting over 150,000 visitors from all over the world.
Originally intended to be held somewhere in the north west of Ireland and organised by the City of Derry & District Motor Club, the initial event was moved to the north coast but the name was never changed. Since 1964 the event has been organised by the Coleraine and District Motor Club. In 2010 the meeting featured daytime practice on the Thursday for the first time.
The 2011 event took place on Saturday 21 May. There were significant delays due to a hoax bomb alert and then an extensive oil spill on the track caused racing to be cancelled after the completion of only one race.
The North West 200 was originally run over two hundred miles in as a handicap race, before changing to its current format of several separate races, each running 4–6 laps during Saturday afternoon. Practice is held on the Tuesday and Thursday evenings before the race. Both the practice and races are held on closed roads, but unlike the Isle of Man TT races which are run in a time-trial format, all riders compete together as with normal circuit racing.
Over the years the number and the classes of races has varied according to the latest regulations. From 1990 until 2010, there was always a 125 cc race and since 1992 the North West 200 race has been for Superbikes. For 2012, all practise sessions will take place during the day and the racing programme has been extended to include two races on the Thursday evening. All races will be held over six laps, except for the newly introduced Supertwin event.
The street circuit is made up almost entirely of public roads (A2, B185 & A29) but does include three speed reducing chicanes. The route, running anti-clockwise enters the outskirts of the towns passing many private houses. To help improve track safety street signs are removed at parts of the track and bales of hay are used to wrap the base of lampposts and telegraph poles. The circuit is 8.970 mi (14.436 km) long, with a distance of 8.834 mi (14.217 km) being covered on the first lap of every race. The original start/finish line was located near Magherabouy but moved to the Portmore Road in Portstewart in 1930.
1973 saw the first major changes to the course, which include the exclusion of the Promenade at Portstewart from the route and the moving of the start/finish line to its current location between Juniper Hill and Millbank Avenue. These changes meant the route used Station Road (B185) for the first time and saw the introduction of York Corner. Shell Hill Bridge, an iconic part of the original course was used for the last time in 1979. In 1980 a new link road, from University Corner to Ballysally Roundabout, was introduced. A chicane was introduced just before the approach to the Juniper Hill corner in 1983 and in 1988 improvements were made to Mather's Cross and the start/finish chicane was introduced to reduce the speeds around Primrose Hill as well as allowing safer access to the pitlane.
At the end of 2009 Mather's Cross was widened in order improve safety at the corner. For 2010 additional modifications were made to the circuit to improve safety. A new purpose built chicane at Mather's Cross was introduced to reduce speeds at the corner and safety improvement made to the area at Station corner.
Jack Brett recorded the first 100 mph (160 km/h) lap of the course on a Norton 500cc in 1957. The current course lap record is held by Steve Plater at 124.109 mph (199.734 km/h) which was set during the 2006 event. The fastest recorded lap at 127.63 mph (205.40 km/h) was set by Tom Herron during the 1978 'North West 200' race. In 2004, Michael Rutter became the first rider to record a top speed in excess of 200 mph (320 km/h) on the course. During Tuesday's practice at the 2012 event Martin Jessopp set a new fastest speed trap time, reaching 208 mph (335 km/h) on the approach to University Corner.
Deaths at the event
The first recorded death at the event was Norman Wainwright who was killed in 1939.
Black Saturday as it is known, is regarded as the darkest day in the event's history after crashes claimed the lives of three riders, Tom Herron, Brian Hamilton and Frank Kennedy who died months later from his injuries.
Robert Dunlop was killed on 15 May 2008 while practising in the 250cc class. The incident occurred as he was approaching Mather's Cross during the 125/250/400cc practice session. It is understood his bike seized and Robert was thrown over his handlebars at approximately 160 mph. Fellow rider Darren Burns was following immediately behind and collided with Robert, suffering a broken leg and suspected concussion. Robert suffered severe chest injuries and died in hospital shortly afterwards.
Twenty-two-year-old Mark Young died during the 2009 event on 17 May 2009. He crashed at the same corner as Robert Dunlop, raising serious concerns about the circuit's safety. It was Young's first race at the North West 200 though he had road racing experience.
Thirty-five-year-old Mark Buckley suffered a fatal crash on Millbank Avenue outside Portstewart during the Superstock race on 19 May 2012. He was taken to hospital but later died from his injuries, no other competitors were involved with this incident.
Other Competitor Deaths
|1||Norman Wainwright||May 1939||Drumslade||1939 North West 200 Races||500cc Norton|
|2||P.L.Phillips||15 May 1949||Portstewart||1949 North West 200 Races|
|3||L.G.Aislabie||27 May 1956||1956 North West 200 Races|
|4||Andrew Manship||23 May 1970||1970 North West 200 Races||Practice||350cc Yamaha|
|5||Graham Fish||27 May 1973||Station Corner||1973 North West 200 Races||Practice||Yamaha|
|6||Brian Hamilton||26 May 1979||Black Hill||1979 North West 200 Races||350cc Race||350cc Yamaha|
|7||Tom Herron||26 May 1979||Juniper Hill||1979 North West 200 Races||Superbike Race||750cc Suzuki|
|8||Frank Kennedy||26 May 1979||University Corner||1979 North West 200 Races||Superbike Race|
|9||Mervyn Robinson||May 1980||Mather's Cross||1980 North West 200 Races|
|10||John Newbold||15 May 1982||Juniper Hill||1982 North West 200 Races||Superbike Race||Suzuki|
|11||Pat McLaughlin||May 1986||Mather's Cross||1986 North West 200 Races|
|12||Donny Robinson||May 1999||Ballysally Roundabout||1999 North West 200 Races||Practice|
|13||Robert Dunlop||15 May 2008||Mather's Cross||2008 North West 200 Races||Practice||250cc Honda|
|14||Mark Young||16 May 2009||Mather's Cross||2009 North West 200 Races||250cc Race||250cc Honda|
|15||Mark Buckley||19 May 2012||Millbank Avenue||2012 North West 200 Races||Superstock Race||1000cc Aprilia|
Northern Irishman Robert Dunlop holds the record number of wins, totalling fifteen victories throughout his career. His brother Joey won thirteen races, but the event has been dominated in recent years by Englishman Michael Rutter, who has won twelve races from 1997 to 2008. The next generation of Dunlop entered the record books in 2008 when Robert's son Michael won the 250 cc race. The following year another son, William, won two races.
The early years of the event was dominated by British motorcycle manufacturers, in particular Norton. It was only in 1964 that Honda claimed their first victory. 2010 saw BMW score their first victory at the event and also the first non-Japanese manufacturer to claim a victory since 1997. Yamaha is the only manufacturer to have a clean sweep, winning all five races in 1979.
|13||Joey Dunlop||Michael Rutter|
|8||Tony Rutter||Ian Lougher|
|6||Steve Cull||John McGuinness|
|5||Ian Simpson||Arthur Wheeler||John Williams||Mick Grant||Woolsey Coulter|
|4||Bob McIntyre||David Jefferies||Jimmie Guthrie||Ernie Nott||Eddie Laycock||Tommy Robb||Ryan Farquhar|
|3||Alan Shepherd||Artie Bell||Callum Ramsey||Geoff Duke||Charlie Williams||Jim Moodie||Eric Fernihough||Ralph Bryans|
|Ray McCullough||Rod Gould||Trevor Nation||Tom Herron||Sammy Miller||William Dunlop|
|2||Alistair King||Andy Watts||Bob Anderson||Carl Fogarty||Charlie Manders||John White||Derek Chatterton||Ian Hutchinson|
|Derek Ennett||Donny Robinson||Fred Stevens||Gary Cowan||Graham Wood||Ian Newton||Jack Brett||John Blanchard|
|John Cooper||Kevin Mitchell||Peter Williams||Phelim Owens||Dick Creith||Robert Holden||Roger Marshall||Steve Hislop|
|Percy Hunt||Walter Rusk||Olie Linsdell||Michael Dunlop|
The event is currently covered by BBC Northern Ireland having previously been covered by UTV. Some races can be accessed live nationwide via the BBC Red Button and all races are live on the BBC Website. BBC NI also show highlights programmes presented by Stephen Watson, usually on the Sunday and Monday nights after the event. BBC Commentators include BBC MotoGP commentator Steve Parrish and 5 times winner on a single day Phillip McCallen.
The North West 200 features in Jester Interactive's PlayStation 2 title TT Superbikes: Real Road Racing Championship released at the end of May 2008. It is the sequel to their top 10 game TT Superbikes released in 2005.
- "Honda rider Steve Plater fastest at NW200 practice". BBC News. BBC. 11 May 2010. Retrieved 11 May 2010.
- "Alastair Seeley fastest in first North West 200 session". BBC News. BBC. 15 May 2012. Retrieved 15 May 2012.
- Other motorists have responsibility for bikers too, campaign warns Northern Ireland Executive Website 14 May 2009 Retrieved 28 January 2010
- "The History of the North West 200". North West 200 Website. Retrieved 17 May 2010.
- "Local People Urged to Support new NW200 Daytime Practice Session". North West 200 Website. 16 February 2010. Retrieved 2 April 2010.
- "North West 200 racing abandoned". BBC Sport. BBC. 21 May 2011. Retrieved 24 May 2011.
- "Relentless International North West 200 Revs up for 'Giant' 2012". North West 200 Website. 24 January 2012. Retrieved 19 April2012.
- Organisers Applaud Improvements at Mather's Cross North West Official Website 9 November 2009 Retrieved 28 January 2010
- New Safety Improvements at Mather’s Cross and Station Corner North West Official Website 27 April 2010 Retrieved 8 May 2010
- "Dunlop dies after motorbike crash". BBC Sport. 16 May 2008. Retrieved 18 May 2008.
- Promising rider who died at the North West 200 road race in Northern Ireland Lasting Tribute Website[dead link]
- "Scottish rider dies in North West 200 race". 20 May 2012. Retrieved 20 May 2012.
- Irish Bike pp19 dated September 2000
- Irish Bike pp2 dated September 2000
- Isle of Man Examiner pp2 dated 20 May 2008
- Manx Independent p42 dated 22 May 2009
- Motor-Cycle News 23 May 2012 Motorcycle News Publications (2012) Bauer Consumer Media Ltd page 35
- BBC North West 200 Coverage BBC Website
- TT Superbikes Jester interactive's website
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to North West 200.|
- http://www.northwest200.org/ The Official North 200 Website
- http://www.bbc.co.uk/northernireland/nw200/ BBC North West 200 Website