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Road Races

Holidays 2016 – NorthWest 200

Posted on 25/06/2016 at 11:23 pm by / 0

Our Holidays 2016 started HERE.

On Tuesday it was the first Practice day of the NorthWest 200.

We woke up early, had breakfast and went to the circuit following the GPS, which took us through the Dark Hedges- not a soul there at that time of the day.

We arrived to the circuit and parked on the car park of the Golf next to the paddock. We went to the paddock where we had a look at the bikes of all the different teams. There were also a few racers who were getting prepared: Hutchy, Malachi Mitchell-Thomas, William Dunlop, Maria Costello, etc… After a first round we tried to find Antonio Maeso, who was back to a road race since his accident 2 years ago at the TT, where he almost lost his knee.

For who doesn’t know who is Antonio Maeso, he is one of the very few Spanish riders who raced in the Isle of Man since the FEM doesn’t give anymore licenses to race there since Santi Herrero fatal accident there in 1970. Antonio races under English license. You can follow him on his website: http://www.maeso.eu/

Antonio Maeso – Thursday practice

After asking around and another round we finally saw him going through the technical verifications with the bike, and we followed him to his stand to say hello and wish him good luck.

After a while they closed the road and we went to the grandstand from the paddock, which is at the end of the finish straight, in front of 2 bends. Though from there we couldn’t see the starting grid.

The day was sunny with some cloud from time to time, and this seaside breeze a little fresh, enough to keep my jacket on and put my hat on (down on ground level it was much warmer).

Practice time started with the Newcomers first (if I remember well)- the ones who never participated before- in reduced groups behind a leader, usually a confirmed racer. Then followed with Supersport, Superbike, Supertwin and finally Superstock.

Malachi Mitchell-Thomas

Michael Rutter

The Marshals

Michael Dunlop

The day went on without any incident until 2 minutes before the end of the last practice, which was ended with a red flag.  The accident involved Ben Wilson, who resulted with a bad leg injury (when publishing this report, he is still with rehab).

We went back to the paddock and after a round to see if to have a bite there or outside, we decided to go back to the parking, take the bike and go to Coleraine for a bite, then buy some food and back.

On Thursday, the morning was for Practice and the afternoon for races. We left early to take seat before the road closure. As the ticket gave access to any grandstand around the circuit, we went to Metropole bend. From the grandstand we have a good view over Metropole corner, then a short fast straight and then farer away, “Church Corner”. We stayed there all day, taking pics during Practice, that ended around 2.15pm.


William Dunlop

Michael Dunlop

Ryan Farquhar

They opened the road then for about 3 hours. We took advantage to walk around the merchandising stands and buy some drink (which was less expensive than in the paddock, but we had brought our food anyway). When the race hour got closer, the grandstand started to fill quickly. Until it was completely full, not an empty seat.

They started with the Supersport race, which was quite intense, with many overtaking on the long straights of the circuit. We could follow the action on the big screen. Alastair Seeley won the race, beating Robert Dunlop record, with 16 NW200 races wins.

Then started the Supertwin race, which was stopped after 2 laps because of a fire in the garden of a house close to the circuit (a burnt barbecue…), and the firefighters had to act quickly.

Ryan Farquhar & Dani Cooper

Malachi Mitchell-Thomas, Adam McLean, James Cowtown, Danny Webb

Around 7.45pm the riders were on the grid again for a 4 laps race (I have no pics of the second part as the sun was too low for my camera).

After 2 intense laps with many overtaking between Ryan Farquhar and Dani Cooper, there were red flags out and the ambulance went out. Ryan Farquhar had fallen and Dani Cooper couldn’t avoid him. Both ended up in the hospital, Ryan with many injuries, including broken pelvis and ribs and some bad internal injury, and Dani with a shoulder injury. (When publishing this report, Dani is fit again, but Ryan has been through very tough moments and with a long way to full recovery. But he is quite optimistic and confirmed that his team will be racing next year).

After a long while without information, and with too many people walking around the circuit while the road was still closed, we were finally able to get back to the bike and get out when road opened again. There was a beautiful sunset on the ocean, but spirits were too low for taking pictures…

Saturday was the big day, Race day. We woke up early and arrived to the circuit around 8.00am. The roads closed at 9.30am so we went for a walk around the paddock.

If you go to the NW200 with your bike, think about taking something to put under the sidestand of your bike, some car parks are not for bikes… the Golf parking is part of the Golf, so it’s grass all around, and it’s better to be ready…

The teams were very busy and there was a long queue for the bikes technical verifications.

Then we went to the Grandstand we had booked for the Saturday.

With the “Grandstand” pass you can access to any grandstand around the circuit on Tuesday and Thursday, without a reserved seat, first arrived, first served. Then on Saturday you have your seat booked on the grandstand you chose. We were on the so-called “Start-Finish” grandstand, where you can only see the Starting grid (and the podium if you are enough on the right side), as the “Finish” line is far behind big containers with all the Television, Race control and so, so we can’t see it bar on screen. (I think there is no actual grandstand in front of the Finish line).

We were on the second row from the bottom, which is quite down taking into account that on the front of the grandstand, there is the area reserved for disabled persons, with wheelchairs, and depending on where you are, you can’t see too well the starting grid. But we had a good sight on the podium.

If you chose this grandstand, it is better to take some row from the 4th row and up, and from the middle to the right (facing the podium). But not too much on the right hand side if you want to see well the starting grid… When you book the tickets it’s impossible to see what’s the view from the seat.

The day was very sunny still, but there was a chilly breeze coming under the seats on the feet (where the sun didn’t get). But we did not complain, this was the first NW200 with sunshine in 10 years…

They finally closed the road and the races started. The truth is that watching the start is really impressive, all the grandstand is vibrating with the roaring of the engines, thrilling. The rest of the races is mainly seen on the screen and the small bit when they go through the double bent at the end of the finish line, this is a nice view when they are all grouped together, and it can be quite “funny” when some rider misses the bend and does some motocross…

Also it is interesting to see how the teams and the racers get prepared before the start.

Michael Dunlop

In any case, personally I would recommend to book another grandstand for the Saturday, where there is more action, and maybe watch the Thursday afternoon races from this one (though I guess they fill in quite early for Thursday, and it might be quite boring to follow all practice from that grandstand on Thursday morning).

Anyway the races were quite intense, particularly the Superstock one. There was some red flag and some delay out of the organisation hands, but the first 3 races (Supersport, Superstock and Superbike) were very interesting and nice to follow (on screen).

Superstock Podium- Hutchy, Hickman, Seeley

The fourth one, the Supertwin one, was stopped with a red flag. The first two racers had gone through the bends before us, and the 3rd one, the young fella Malachi Mitchell-Thomas did not follow. Then we saw Jeremy Mc Williams, who was in 4th, coming in and get directly into boxes after the red flag. Something might have happened with Malachi 🙁 . They informed that there was an incident and that the medical team was working there. It lasted quite a good while and it was worrying. We were together with the Spanish couple we had met at Joey’s Bar on Wednesday. After a good while they informed that the rider involved in the accident did not survive to his injuries 🙁 . They didn’t give the name at that moment but we knew too well who it was 🙁 .

Malachi was 20 years old, he came to racing through Supermoto, and had made his road racing debut in 2014. In 2015 he won the Manx Grand Prix Senior. In 2016 he had a very good season start on the Irish roads, with 2nd in Supertwin, winning in Supersport and Superbike and finishing 2nd of the Grand Final at the Mid-Antrim. Then in Tandragee he followed with a 2nd in Supertwin, 3rd in Supersport, 3rd in the Open/Superbike non championship and 3rd in the Superbike/Open championship. And in Cookstown, he won the Supertwin, finished 3rd in the first Superbike race and 2nd in the second Superbike race. At the beginning of the season he had signed a contract with Cookstown Burrows Engineering Racing Team, and his youth and happy smile in the paddock had already left a big impression on the fans all over Ireland.

This sport gives so many sensations, but sometimes it’s so cruel. He was 20 years old… We will have to think that he went while realising his dream and being happy. Rest in Peace Malachi.

They cancelled the 2 remaining races, and after a short wait for most people to leave, we also went back to the bike, with very low spirit.

Personally and without taking into account the circumstances of the race day ending, if you have to go to only one road race in Ireland, this is not the one I would recommend. At least not if you want to have a taste of the atmosphere of all other road races of the Island. It is much more like a short circuit race from a spectator point of view, you are quite further away from the action (though much closer than in most circuits!), and it’s not cheap either. Well, it’s not compulsory to take a grandstand seat, you can walk and seat around the circuit for free outside of the grandstands, but then you have to know and chose well where to spectate from, as the circuit is very long and it is complicated to move to another place once roads are closed.

The good thing is that you can see most of the most famous road racers and some BSB racers, who usually do the TT (Mc Guinness, Hutchy, Hickman, Dunlops, …), and most don’t do the “National” ones, and maybe have less pressure than in the Isle of Man, being more accessible.

At the end of the season maybe I will be able to give a broader opinion on which race I would recommend best in case of only going to one…


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