The NW 200 is the first international road race of the year takes it place between the towns of Portrush,Portstewart and Coleraine. The track itself is made up entirely of public roads it spans 8.970 miles. Riders can reach speeds of up to 200 MPH on roads used everyday by tractors,buses and people going about their days and in a practice session of the 2012 event Martin Jessopp recorded a speed of 208 MPH.
The event had originally been set to be held somewhere in the North West of Ireland and was to be organised by the City of Derry and District Motor Club but was moved to the North Coast keeping the same name. The event was given to the Coleraine and District Motor Club in 1964 and they continue to organise the event to this day. The event is the largest outdoor sporting event held in Ireland with around 150,000 people spectating visiting over the race weekend and millions watching around the world as the races are streamed online via the BBC. In 2010 it was decided that the Thursday practice session would be held during the day to help riders gain more experience for race day. Then in 2012 the tuesday session was moved to daytime as well with Thursday evening races being added to the programme.
The late Robert Dunlop currently sits at the top of the all time winners table with 15 wins current King of the North Coast circuit Alistair Seeley also has 15 and will be looking to add a few more this year. Out of the current riders Michael Rutter currently sits on 13 wins,Bruce Anstey has 10 and isle of Man TT legend John McGuiness sits on 6. The current Superbike lap record holder is British superbike champion and current World Superbike competitor Josh Brookes who set the average lap speed of 122.958 mph in 2014 onboard the Milwaukee Yamaha.
As with all Road races the North West is not without controversy and has unfortunately been the scene of many riders losing their lives and being seriously injured over its long history. The track has been modified to try and improve safety over the years the event has been run but unfortunately there is only so many things that can be done when it comes to road racing.
Onboard Lap with John Burrows:
2016 Main Contenders:
This year is one of the deepest grids the North west 200 has seen with riders coming from not only road racing but the British Championships.
- Alistair Seeley will be the man to beat the ‘wee wizard’ has been the dominant force around the north coast in recent years and will be onboard the BMW he used last year all be it with a different team swapping the Tyco TAS team for the Lee Hardy racing squad.
- Ian Hutchinson is the man that moved into the seat vacated by Seeley, Hutchinson or as he is known by fans ‘Hutchy’ makes the move to the Northern Ireland based team off of his dramatic return to form in 2015 returning to the winners enclosure at the Isle of Man TT for the first time since his horrific injury suffered at Silverstone during a British Supersport race in 2010.
- Bruce Anstey shows no signs of slowing down at 47 he is still one of the top road racers in the world riding for the Padgetts racing team for the 6th year he will be looking to add to his already impressive total around the North Coast circuit.
- Michael Dunlop as always will be a major threat the 27 year old is right up there as an elite talent of the road racing world. Dunlop holds 4 wins at the North West with his first in the 250cc race being his most memorable it came in 2008 the same event that his father Robert Dunlop had died at during practice. Dunlop will be riding BMW machines in the Superbike and Superstock this machines will be prepared by Hawk racing the team behind the Buildbase BMW superbike squad.
- John McGuinness the current undisputed king of the mountain has stayed with the Factory Honda racing team for this seasons international road race season. McGuinness is most regarded for his pace around the TT circuit but does have 6 wins to his name at the North West, he will be looking for a confidence boosting weekend to spring board him towards more success at the TT.
- Peter Hickman is the fastest ever new comer to the North West 200 having made his debut at the 2014 event but was forced to miss the event last year due to injury,he did go on to have success at the Isle of Man TT posting an impressive 131mph lap in only his second year competing he also racked up his first international road race win at the UGP in 2015 as well as collecting another win in Macau to end the season. Hickman or ‘Hicky’ to fans has joined the factory backed JG Speedfit Kawasaki squad for 2016 and has already won a round of the British superbike championship.
- Lee Johnston is widely regarded as one of the brightest rising stars of the Road racing scene having developed his talent on the short circuits racing in the British championships at a young age. Johnston currently has 3 wins his most impressive coming last year beating Alistair Seeley in the superstock race. Johnston will remain with the East Coast racing team for 2016 season and will hope to build on a strong 2015 .
The BBC will be covering the whole event times and places are listed below: