Hundreds of bike racing fans descended on the Titanic building last night for the opportunity to meet some of the riders who will be taking part in this year’s Vauxhall International North West 200.
The event, which was designed to bring the NW200 closer to the fans and give the general public more access, was fronted by BBC’s Stephen Watson and featured the likes of John McGuinness, Ryan Farquhar, and Josh Brookes. Tickets for the event were free but only around 600 were issued and were given on a first come first served basis.
Earlier in the day the press launch had taken place where a host of changes for this year had been revealed. Among them were the addition of a lap to each of the two Superbike races, bringing the total number of laps to seven, and a new Man of the Meeting award in memory of Robert Dunlop. Other announcements included the addition of viewing screen at York Corner, free wifi throughout the paddock, and the extension of the BBC deal which will see the broadcaster continue to present North West 200 coverage worldwide for the next five years.
At the ‘Meet the Riders’ event, after viewing compilation videos of action from previous North West 200s, Stephen Watson interviewed the riders. Riders in attendance were John McGuinness, Michael and William Dunlop, Ian Hutchinson, Josh Brookes, Steve Mercer, Peter Hickman, Keith Amor, Ryan Farquhar, Alistair Seeley, Jeremy McWilliams and Stuart Easton. For Hutchinson, Amor, and Farquhar it marks a return to the North West 200 after time away for different reasons. It will be former British Superbike rider Hickman’s first time at the race. All of the riders spoke of their excitement for the race, and what it means to race at the North West 200.
Following that, the riders spread out throughout the room and fans were given the opportunity to go and talk to them, get their autographs and photographs taken with them. There was a buzz of excitement in the room and, with just six weeks to go until race week, it looks set to increase. The event was the first time the North West 200 has tried something like this and all-in-all it seemed to be a great success!