This year's Relentless International North West 200 in association with Black Horse is set to hit the starting grid on May 15th with a more streamlined, stylish, and high velocity event designed to satisfy riders and their teams as well as appealing to new visitor audiences from both home and abroad.

A six race programme, range of top quality riders, revamped practice sessions, new DCAL and Sport Northern Ireland funded safety provisions at Mather's Cross and Station Corner, a fresh approach to newcomers and a brand new NITB backed Rider Business and Communications Centre all aim to create enhanced conditions, improved rider safety and a smoothly managed event for all competitors and team managers.

A new marketing campaign supported by NITB using the strapline "It's easier than ever to enjoy the action!" aims to build for the future by demonstrating in 5 easy steps how travel and accommodation packages can be booked online through www.northwest200.org and pre, post and during the racing spectators can keep up to speed with race news by utilising the NW200's dedicated website as well as sharing their views on Facebook and tweeting online by following the North West on Twitter.

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Visitors from outside Northern Ireland are also encouraged to check out other parts of the region through the NW200's 'Stay a While' campaign which this year boasts five new itineraries and offers a total of 10 suggested routes to tempt spectators to take a look at Northern Ireland's extensive tourism offer before or after Race Day. Whilst new additions to the Race Week Festival programme include Belfast's Continental Christmas Market with a summer make-over located at the Metropole in Portrush.

Race Director Mervyn Whyte MBE and his team are slotting the final pieces of the North West 200 jigsaw into place as they gear up for Race Week and organisers Coleraine & District Motor Club Ltd were once again honoured to attend a special Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure hosted final media conference at Parliament Buildings, Stormont with Sports Minister Nelson McCausland. Key guests included HM Plant Honda rider John McGuinness from Morecambe in Lancashire and newcomer Gary Mason of MSS Colchester Kawasaki, Mayor of Coleraine Cllr Sandy Gilkinson, PSNI BikeSafe co-ordinators, volunteers, representatives from title and associate sponsors Relentless and Black Horse, race and ancillary sponsors and NW200 Supporters' Club members.

Official Race Programme
Also launched at Stormont was the North West 200's glossy 100 page official Race Programme which has been produced for the ninth consecutive year by local company Careva Publishing. As Race Director Mervyn Whyte emphasized programme sales are an essential source of income for event organisers Coleraine & District Motor Club. "We urge spectators, fans and visitors to all dig into their pockets and buy a programme online at www.northwest200.org or from one of our hundreds of volunteers who will be located around the Coleraine/Portrush/Portstewart 'triangle' area."

Competitively priced at ?15 (18 Euros) the programme contains all up to date race information including the six race line-up and in depth features on leading riders. The souvenir programme also includes retro articles on Brian Reid, Woolsey Coulter and Ralph Bryans and a detailed lap of the circuit with current lap record holder Steve Plater. Programmes will also be available to purchase from Tesco stores and petrol stations in the 'Triangle' region.

Mervyn Whyte went on to praise and thank Paul Lindsay and his staff from Careva saying, "I'd like to thank Paul and the team for all their hard work and dedication. Each year the programme just gets bigger and better and I absolutely believe this is the best to date with a fabulous line-up of contributors and rider features to ensure fans get a great read and excellent value for money."

Mervyn also paid tribute to all race and ancillary sponsors making special reference to North West title and associate sponsors Relentless and Black Horse, regional partner Coleraine Borough Council, Sports Minister Nelson McCausland and the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, Tourism Minister Arlene Foster and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment for their ongoing support and funding.

Overview
This year's 6 race entry programme features over 350 entries representing 120 riders and features a star quality line-up including GB and international names John McGuinness, Steve Plater, Bruce Anstey, Michael Rutter, Guy Martin, Cameron Donald, Stuart Easton, Conor Cummins, Ian Hutchinson, Gary Johnston and Ian Lougher pitting their skills against local high fliers such as Cookstown 100 winner Ryan Farquhar, Stephen Thompson, William and Michael Dunlop and Adrian Archibald. Sole female rider in this year's race is Northampton girl Maria Costello who will compete in the Clinton Supersport and Ballymoney Borough Council Supersport races. Riders from further afield include Oregon's Jimmy Moore, French riders Fabrice Miguet and Franz Schwarz, Argentinean Walter Cordoba, Sandor Bitter from Hungary and Italian duo Alessandro La Macchia and Stefano Bonnetti. The Antipodes is represented by Paul Dobbs alongside high profile regulars Bruce Anstey and Cameron Donald. Other European names include Renzo Van der Donckt from Belgium and Dutch riders S Fokkema Savelkouls and Ray Hutchinson.

Practice Sessions and Newcomers
Evening practice is retained for Tuesday 11th May but in a first for the North West roads close for Thursday's session at 9.30am and re-open at 3pm. During the first practice evening newcomers will ride behind the experienced North West competitors. During both practice sessions classes will all be run separately and riders in each of the four sessions will undertake 60 to 75 minutes practice. (see Editors Notes). On Tuesday evening the first two laps of each of the four sessions will be untimed allowing newcomers to gain knowledge of the course and regular competitors to familiarise themselves with the new chicane at Mather's Cross. Timings will begin on the 3rd lap of each of the four sessions on Tuesday. Thursday daytime practice will follow the same format as previous years.

Yoko and Greenline NW200 Superbike Races
Both Superbike races have attracted the cream of road racing with over 60 entries each. Top stars include MSS Colchester Kawasaki newcomer Gary Mason, TAS Suzuki trio Anstey, Seeley and Donald, Superbike lap record holder Steve Plater and John McGuinness from HM Plant Honda. Michael Rutter will represent Ridermotorcycles.com Ducati, Oregon based Jimmy Moore rides for East Coast Racing and also on the starting grid are local aces the Dunlop brothers, Adrian Archibald as well as Ryan Farquhar and Stephen Thompson both riding for MSS Colchester Kawasaki.

Clinton Enterprises and Ballymoney Borough Supersport Races
The ever popular Supersport races have also generated over 60 entries each and feature the NW200's only female competitor Maria Costello riding for CSC Racing. Lap record holder Steve Plater will compete under the Padgetts of Batley banner alongside John McGuinness and Ian Hutchinson whilst Ian Lougher will represent Black Horse Kawasaki. Riding the McAdoo Kawasaki Racing/Gortreagh Printing is Manx man Conor Cummins and joining him on the grid is Kermington rider Guy Martin, Gary Johnston and local stars Ryan Farquhar, Alastair Seeley, William and Michael Dunlop.

McKendry Fabrications Ltd 125cc Race
Race number three on the programme, the McKendry Fabrications Ltd 125cc race features almost 30 entries including William Dunlop, Sam Dunlop, Renzo Van der Donckt, Paul Robinson and James Ford.

CP Hire Ltd Superstock Race
The CP Hire backed Superstock raced has attracted 71 entries including lap record holder Guy Martin, John McGuinness riding for Padgetts of Batley, HM Plant Honda rider Steve Plater, newcomer Gary Mason, Michael Rutter, Jimmy Moore from East Coast Racing, Oregon, Gary Johnston, Stuart Easton, Relentless by TAS Suzuki trio Anstey, Seeley and Donald and Maria Costello. Local stars lining the grid include Denver Robb, the Dunlop brothers, Ryan Farquhar, Ian Lougher, Stephen Thompson and Davy Morgan.

BikeSafe
The PSNI will be actively promoting road safety and the BikeSafe message at this year's North West 200. From Tuesday 11th to Saturday 15th May, highly trained police motorcyclists will be offering free assessed 'ride outs' to bikers who can either pre-book a session or simply turn up at the event for an appointment. PSNI have also produced a new BikeSafe DVD in partnership with NW200 organisers, BBC and BikeSafe partners. The DVD which includes messages from top riders provides clear road safety advice and guidance to bikers and will be available during Race Week. BikeSafe co-ordinator Constable Bill Holden explained, "Northern Ireland has a big biking culture and BikeSafe helps raise the profile of motorbike safety. Our award winning campaign is aimed at bikers ranging from the novice to the experienced. Our advanced motorcyclists provide advice on proper maintenance and handling of machines and in addition raise safety awareness by allowing motorcyclists to draw on the experience of experts."

Coleraine Borough Council
Speaking at the Stormont press conference, Mayor of Coleraine Cllr Sandy Gilkinson, said: "Coleraine Borough Council is proud of its long association with the North West 200. Each May the programme of events generate in the region of ?8 million towards the Northern Ireland economy. Many small businesses in our Borough depend on this annual boost of income that the race week generates.

"Council as the regional partner of NW200 willingly makes a significant annual contribution to the event, which includes financial assistance and staff effort. This is to help ensure that the International North West 200 satisfies and even exceeds the expectations of its many supporters".

NITB Major Event Funding
The International North West 200 has also attracted additional new funding from NITB's Major Event Fund programme. The new campaign branded "It's Easier than Ever to Enjoy the Action" went live on 26th April and is featured on 48 sheet posters, websites and dedicated bike magazines in NI, RoI and further afield. The new NITB funding has also enabled NW200 organisers to provide a new Business and Communications Centre for teams and riders as well as developing the highly successful Stay a While and We Want You campaigns first introduced prior to last year's event.

Explained Laura McManus, Business Development &Operations Manager, "This substantial backing from the Major Event Fund, now under the NITB banner is a tremendous boost to the NW200. It will enable us to promote this flagship event at a much higher level helping us increase tourism in the North Coast area and inspiring visitors to spend time during Race Week at the numerous events planned from Sunday 9th May. The new Business & Communications Centre is also a great addition to the event and indeed it's a first for any road racing event locally."

Park and Ride
After months of preparation the NW200 organisers have been working with Chambers Coaches of Moneymore to develop a new Park & Ride facility. In a bid to decrease traffic on the roads and help spectators access the event with ease, the new facility will operate from a parking site off the Ballybogey Road outside Ballymoney, and will provide a 10 minutes shuttle service for spectators to lower Ballywillan Road (one minute from Metropole Corner). The location was decided upon due to the short distance to the track, instant access to the new Continental Market and the option to stroll to the Start/Finish line and Paddock. More information and tickets for the NW200 Park & Ride are available online at www.northwest200.org.

BBC Sport NI
Mervyn Whyte also paid tribute to BBC Sport NI, "Our sincere thanks too must go to Shane Glynn and his talented team at BBC Sport Northern Ireland. It is a pleasure to work with such a professional and enthusiastic media partner and enjoy extensive on-line, television and radio coverage of exceptional quality. We're really looking forward to watching BBC's programmes both pre, during and post Race Week."

Relentless and Black Horse
Mervyn Whyte also thanked title sponsor Relentless and associate sponsor Black Horse Motorcycle Finance, "It's been fantastic working alongside the teams at Relentless and Black Horse and their support has been invaluable."
John Coffey of Relentless said, "Relentless energy drink is proud to be this year's title sponsor of the North West 200 and our whole team is looking forward to a safe and thrilling Race Day on 15th May. As a local company, we have been supporting sports in the community for the past 70 years and there is none more prestigious and well renowned than the North West 200. We'd like to wish all the competitors the very best of luck and the same of course to Mervyn and all the volunteers who have worked so hard to create a fantastic day and Festival Week"

Dave Macey, Market and Franchise Development Manager of Black Horse, said, "Black Horse has been an avid supporter and race sponsor of the North West 200 since 2002 and this year we're delighted to move up a gear to become associate sponsor of this very special road racing event. Our team just loves the excitement of Race Day and we hope all the riders excel themselves and we wish Mervyn and the team all the best for May 15th."

Official Vehicle Sponsors
Race Director Mervyn Whyte also thanked the event's official vehicle sponsors Lindsay Ford, Bob Mullan Motors and Fleet Financial. The starting lights system which will be supported by a specially constructed pole will also be sponsored by Bob Mullan Motors.

Additional New Sponsors
Also supporting this year's event are new sponsors Weber Barbeques and Debenhams.

Biker Art
In a first for the North West 200 the winners of each of the six races will be presented with a piece of modern artwork by a leading Northern Ireland artist Martin Bradley. Martin Bradley's contemporary art will feature on the podium and each rider will receive a special limited edition print.

NW200 Supporters' Club
The hard working North West 200 Supporters' Club led by Laurits Mackness and Ina McColm presented Mervyn Whyte with a substantial cheque. "Laurits, Ina and the whole team do an absolutely fantastic job throughout the year raising much needed funds for the event. We really couldn't do without their help and appreciate their huge contribution to the North West 200 each year."

Corporate Hospitality
Corporate Hospitality packages organised by the Stonebridge Group have been selling extremely well and only a few tickets remain available. Contact 028 3884 9393 for more information.

Check out www.northwest200.org for more information on grandstand seats, programmes or general event information.