By Kyle White

North West 200 technical director Mervyn Whyte is confident the famous road race will return with a vengeance in Northern Ireland in May.

A crippling series of setbacks forced Whyte to abandon the event last year and Whyte later admitted he felt like calling time on his long involvement with the race after poor weather, a hoax bomb threat and an oil spill stretched his resolve to the limit.

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Drenched fans who braved the elements saw only one race, albeit a superb battle between Ulster hero Alastair Seeley and Cameron Donald in the Supersport class, which eventually went to British Supersport champ Seeley after he seized the lead on the final lap.

But a rejuvenated Whyte and the organising Coleraine Club are determined to serve up a timely reminder of everything that is great about the North West 200 in just over fourth months' time.

"People were disappointed with what happened last year, which is understandable even though the circumstances were outside our reach," he said.

"We are working hard this year to put everything right again. We've taken everything into consideration after receiving a lot of feedback from our press meeting after the North West last year and also feedback throughout the year from various committees and individuals.

"There is no doubt the weather was a disaster last year and we could really do with a change of luck in that respect. The guys waking up on a Saturday morning who are further afield are looking out the window and deciding not to bother going to the North West if it's wet because they have the option of staying at home and watching it on the Internet, so that probably takes a few people away from the event I have no doubt," Whyte added.

"But if you get the weather it really makes the event because people are in better form and they want to come out and watch the racing, so if we are lucky in that respect it will be a major boost for ourselves."

For the first time this year racing will be held following practice on the Thursday of race week with a Superstock event and SuperTwins race whetting the appetite for the main event on Saturday, May 19.

"We know we need to be doing something to pull things back again and in response we've introduced two races on the Thursday night for the first time and there's been a lot of work involved around that end of things," Whyte said.

"The North West is held in a residential area so we've had to work very closely with the residents in respect of our plans for the Thursday racing and daytime practice."

A serious accident involving British Superbike star Stuart Easton during practice last year also cast a shadow over the North West, but the Scottish rider has made a full recovery and has not ruled out a return in May.

"I have talked to Stuart Easton and he texted me over Christmas to thank me for everything and to say he was back on full form again, which really pleased me," Whyte revealed.

"I would plan to have a chat with him again but it's down to him whether he decides to come or not, but we certainly would be glad to have him back again."