IN A a car, 70mph is a ‘hairy enough’ experience. Now, imagine travelling at speeds at almost treble that along public roads – on two wheels, not four. All this week, bike fans have been descending in their thousands to the North Antrim Coast of Northern Ireland to watch some of Britain and Ireland’s most talented motorbike riders do battle, writes Jason Craig from the Belfast Telegraph media centre.
Everyone has heard of the Isle of Man TT races, but less so the North West 200. The two races vary greatly; the former is against the clock, whereas the latter is against one another, like MotoGP if you will.
Englishman Michael Rutter (pictured) told me earlier today in an interview that he expects his 2004 record breaking speed of 201.1mph – yes, you read that correctly – to be broken come Saturday. He set that speed on a £150,000-plus, hand-made World Superbike-spec Honda CBR 1000. Even specially developed Michelin tyres that would last the six-lap race distance were used.
Similar priced and equally powerful machines will be lapping the 8.9 mile Portstewart-Coleraine-Portrush ‘Triangle’ circuit this week – and already it has been smashed, albeit unofficially. Scotsman Stuart Easton, who returns to the North Coast after a two year absence, rode through the speed trap at 204mph last night. For the 81st running of Ireland’s largest outdoor sporting event, Rutter will have a Ducati beneath him, while fellow Englishman Steve Platter takes the reins at HM Plant Honda.
Rutter, from Bridgnorth in Shropshire, said: “If the wind is blowing in the right direction down to University – as it was during Tuesday night’s practice – then the Superbikes should reach speeds of up to 208mph. I’m confident it will get broken.”
Last night the affable 12-time NW200 winner encountered a frustrating first practice when the engine in his twin-cylinder 1098RS blew up, casting an element of doubt over his participation this weekend. But like any formula of motorsport in Ireland, people have been on-hand to help out where possible.
You can follow all the action from races 4, 5 and 6 on the BBC by pressing your red button, but to give you an idea of what the Relentless International North West 200 is all about, have a look at this on-board footage.
There will be six races in total, with the first getting underway at 11:00am and the last – the ‘blue riband’ event – bringing proceedings to a close at approximately 17:00pm before roads open once again at 18:00pm.