BSB stars at 2012 North West 200 launch
24 January 2012
British Superbike stars Alastair Seeley and Ian Hutchinson were among the special guests at the official launch of the Relentless International North West 200 in Belfast.
Current British Supersport champion Seeley, who will ride for the Tyco Suzuki team in BSB this year, plus Swan Yamaha rider Hutchinson are two of the top contenders for glory at the famous road race in Northern Ireland, which will take place on Saturday, May 19.
New Tyco Suzuki signing Conor Cummins plus Honda TT Legends ace John McGuinness were also present at the launch.
A new race format has been introduced this year, with a Superstock race and the newly introduced SuperTwins class being held on the Thursday evening of race week, May 17, following the daytime practice session.
A five-race programme will take centre stage on race day, with two Superbike and Supersport races and a second Superstock event, each scheduled for six laps of the 8.9-mile public roads circuit.
The North West suffered a hammer blow in 2011 when a series of setbacks including a hoax bomb alert, poor weather and an oil spill saw the event abandoned with only one Supersport race held, which was won by local hero Seeley following a gripping duel with Australian Cameron Donald.
Mervyn Whyte, the technical director at the North West 200, is determined to make amends for the disappointment of last year's cancellation and says the organisers will do all they can to ensure the event bounces back in style.
“Suffice to say 2011 was a difficult and frustrating year for organisers, sponsors, riders and spectators alike, with a combination of bad weather, a security alert, incidents and cancelled races.
“However, we are looking forward to the 2012 North West 200 and are doing everything in our power to make it exceptional for all the right reasons.”
Former 250cc Grand Prix winner Jeremy McWilliams will ride one of Ryan Farquhar's KMR Kawasaki machines in the SuperTwins race at the North West as he makes his road racing debut in Northern Ireland.
Steve Plater, who has eight wins to his credit at the North West 200, has taken up a role as rider liaison officer this year alongside Ulster road race legend Phillip McCallen.
“The North West 200 is a special event for me and I'm very happy to take on the role of rider liaison officer and hopefully help newcomers get as much out of the fabulous North West 200 circuit as I have,” said Plater.
“Safety is such an important focus of the North West 200 and I'm pleased to be playing a role in making the event as safe as possible.”
The North West attracts the biggest names in road racing, with McGuinness, Hutchinson, Seeley, Cummins, Guy Martin, Michael and William Dunlop, Ryan Farquhar and Gary Johnson on the entry list.
The MSS Kawasaki team is also considering a return to the event in May, despite enduring a nightmare year in 2011 when BSB contender Stuart Easton was ruled out for the season following an horrific crash.
Practice will take place on Tuesday, May 15 and Thursday, May 17 from 9.30am to 2.30pm.
Roads will close again at 5.30pm on Thursday evening for the SuperTwins and Superstock races, re-opening at 9pm.
The main action will be held on race day, Saturday, May 19, with a five-race programme.