By Roy Harris:- Belfast Telegraph
Race legend Phillip McCallen calls on government to support event after double cancellation
Eleven-Time North West 200 race winner Phillip McCallen said it is sad but understandable that the event has been cancelled for the second year in a row.
The loss of the iconic event in May is a hammer blow not only for competitors and fans who normally flock to the north coast but to the Northern Ireland economy too.
However, McCallen – the only competitor to win five races in one day, in 1992 – feels it is also time for the government “to step up to the mark”.
“It’s sad, not only for myself, but for motorcycle racing, the fans, the competitors, Coleraine and District Motor Club and the north coast area,” he said.
“I can fully understand the health and safety reasons, and it’s not only us in the Irish racing world who are set to be tormented by lockdown and regulations for months to come, vaccinations or not – health of people always comes first.
“It has to be remembered the North West course runs through densely populated areas and the last thing the health authorities need is for tens of thousands to flock to the event, possibly bringing different strains of the infection into the area.
“We have seen how serious this Covid is.”
McCallen is confident the event will return to the calendar in the future.
“Yes,” McCallen said emphatically when asked. “People never realise the impact of losing someone or something until they are gone and the majority want the event back.
“However, I would put a caveat on that; I believe that it is now too big for the Coleraine Club – and I do not mean that in any disrespectful way to the hard, hard work by the club members and officials. Government has to step up to the mark.
“Look at the economic loss to the North Coast area, £24m in the two years the event has been cancelled. We have 80,000 people on race days and millions worldwide view not only races but the picturesque nature of the surrounding area.
“Basically, the north coast area and NI Tourism needs the North West 200, and don’t forget the NI government needs to introduce some positivity for everyone after the last two years we have suffered.”
Meanwhile, the Mid Antrim 150 club have announced ambitious plans for the forthcoming season, starting with their Ballymoney Motorcycle Show in Ballybrakes Bowling Club being pushed back until the later dates of March 26-27 (dependent on government restrictions).
Saturday, April 17 has been pencilled in for the A1 Spring Cup at Bishopscourt, followed a day later by a new venture, endurance team races for Juniors and Seniors each lasting two and a half hours. That should be interesting with fuel stops and rider changes.
Then, the club promote the Neil and Donny Robinson Memorial races at Bishopscourt on June 17-18, and finally they will sponsor the USBK Moto1 Championship with a prize fund covering the top 10 finishers, with the best club finisher receiving the Victor Gilmore Memorial Trophy.
It is worth noting, however, that these plans are of course subject to Covid restrictions.