2 October 2015
North West 200 announces series of changes for 2016
A raft of changes will be put in place at next year's North West 200 aimed at improving the organisational efficiency of the international road race.
The North West 200 will introduce a number of key changes in 2016 aimed at improving the organisational efficiency of the race, which takes place from May 10-14.
Following the regular annual review of the international road race, Event Director Mervyn Whyte has identified a number of areas requiring attention, with the major changes aimed particularly at reducing waiting times between each race.
The Ulster sporting showpiece has suffered in recent years due to a number of factors, with the meeting cancelled in 2011 and 2013 as a result of inclement weather.
The race in 2011 was also impacted by a hoax bomb scare and an oil slick, compounded by heavy rain.
A failure to run full race programmes in recent season has also been the source of criticism from spectators and in May, the opening Superstock race and the feature NW200 Superbike event were lost from the schedule.
A serious accident also cast a cloud over the event, with a female spectator badly hurt after an incident involving Dean Harrison, Horst Saiger and Stephen Thompson.
Race boss Whyte has admitted that change is needed and in a statement issued on Friday said he 'understood the frustration of race teams and fans'.
“Each year we review every aspect of the event, from safety considerations to the satisfaction of riders and fans,” said Whyte.
“That review has now been completed and I would like to take this opportunity as Event Director to inform everyone of some significant changes we intend to implement for the 2016 races.
“Although the 2015 North West 200 provided superb racing on both race days, everyone will also be aware that there was a serious incident during the opening Superstock event on Saturday.
“Thankfully, those involved in the crash are now well on the way to recovery and a comprehensive investigation of every aspect of the incident will soon be completed. Any measures that may be recommended to ensure the continuing safety of competitors and spectators will be implemented immediately,” he added.
“As a result of a combination of a significant delay involved in dealing with that incident and poor weather, the North West 200 organisers were forced to curtail the Saturday race programme.
“As Event Director I understand the frustration of the race teams and fans with that situation. We have taken on board the views of everyone involved in the race and have been engaged in intensive consultation with fans, team principals and riders over the past four months,” said Whyte.
“Our aim is to improve the race organisation, making its operation both faster and more efficient.”
Among the changes outlined include a proposal to start racing immediately following the sighting lap, prohibiting media interviews on the grid in the final seconds before each race starts.
Fewer media and team personnel will be permitted on the grid and race grids will be reduced in size, with less riders and machines starting in each wave.
Competitors and machines will leave the grid for their sighting lap in larger groups than is currently the case, while communication with riders and teams and spectators around the course will be enhanced, providing more frequent and up to date announcements broadcast through BBC Radio Ulster's live commentary team and via the on course PA system, with extra speakers also set to be deployed around the course.
Whyte added: “These measures are focused on saving time within the race organisation and to augment their effect less team and media personnel will be permitted on to the grid.
“Over the next few months the North West 200 organisers will be ensuring these changes are effectively conveyed to everyone involved in the race.
“To have the maximum effect they will require the co-operation of everyone- riders, teams and spectators alike and we look forward to working together to achieve our common goal of a safe and spectacular week's racing at the 2016 North West 200.”
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