Ahead of today’s 2009 North West 200 press launch, NW200 Yamaha rider Michael Rutter met with NW200 Clerk of the Course to discuss possible safety improvements to the superfast 8.96 mile ‘Triangle’ of public roads that link Portrush, Portstewart and Coleraine on the northern coast line of Northern Ireland.
The area for most concern during the course inspection was Black Hill, the site of four incidents during last year’s event, including Guy Martin’s massive crash in the last race of the day, which saw both rider and Hydrex Honda launched into the air after Martin had clipped the kern turning into the high-speed left-hander.
Whyte said: “After three incidents in practice and one in racing where the bike (Martin’s) took off, it’s important for us to carry out a risk assessment.
"We may either have to prohibit spectators here in future or maybe build a grandstand further back. The ground is uneven but we’ve been told it’s possible to build a 400-seater.”
The current grassy spectator bank on the outside of the corner gives a great vantage point of bikes coming into and out of the corner but Martin’s flying bike came to rest dangerously close to the crowd last year and the NW200 organisers can’t risk a repeat of the accident.
Rutter said: “It’s the best corner on the track both from a rider’s point of view and a spectator’s. For us it’s so important to get the drive to the final Juniper chicane where you can win or lose a race. But it’s a real total commitment fast corner and if you miss the turn-in point you can get into real trouble.”
One thought is to reduce the kerbing on the outside of the road which might at least prevent a sliding bike from flipping – and reduce the risk of rider injury at the same time.
One other minor change to the course will be to tighten up the entry to the Juniper chicane to prevent riders from taking an unfair advantage of using the grass to straighten the corner out.
Rutter said: “It won’t mean altering the road. All it needs is to run some plastic kerbing on the inside of the corner entry to force everyone to turn in later, which means having to slow the bike a bit more. At least that way no one will be able to straightline the corner.”
The public roads also suffer a lot of wear and tear over the year from everyday traffic and Rutter spotted places on the course where drains right in braking zones had sunken. The problem will be sorted for the races on May 16.