Stuart Easton, one of the UK’s leading motorcycle riders, will be returning to this year’s Relentless International North West 200 in association with Black Horse following a three year absence from the event.
Twice winner of Macau in 2008 and 2009, Easton from Scottish Borders town Hawick also finished in the top 3 in the 2009 MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship and announced his return to the famous nine-mile circuit at this month’s press conference, held in BBC’s Blackstaff Studio.
Easton plans to compete riding the same Swan Honda Fireblade machine which helped him take the trophy in Macau and believes he will be a strong contender at this year’s North West 200.
“I entered as a rookie in 2004 but my bike suffered a series of mechanical problems so my debut wasn’t overly memorable.
"However in 2006 I gained 4th and 6th positions in the Supersport races and this year I’m really hoping to improve my NW200 record.
"As well as competing in the Superbike races, I’ll be riding in the Superstock event.”
Also present at the press conference were riders Ian Hutchinson, Conor Cummins, Alistair Seeley, Michael and William Dunlop, Keith Amor and Ryan Farquhar.
Yorkshire rider Ian Hutchinson first raced at the NW200 in 2005 and clinched a trophy in 2006 achieving lap records in the 600cc and Superstock races. This year ‘Hutchy’ plans to compete in five races under the Padgetts Honda banner.
Relentless TAS Suzuki team members Cameron Donald and Bruce Anstey are set to enter both Supersport races, the Superstock and both Superbike races whilst Alistair Seeley plans to compete in the Superstock race.
Michael Dunlop aims to ride in both Superbike and 600cc Supersport races and the Superstock race whilst William will compete in the 125, Superstock, both Superbike and Supersport races.
Dungannon ace Ryan Farquhar will enter the Superbike races on board the MSS Kawasakis and will compete in the 600cc and Superstock races on KMR Kawasakis.
Steve Plater and John McGuinness will both be riding HM Plant Hondas in the Superbike races and Padgetts Hondas for the 600cc.
For the Superstock race, Plater will be on the Superstock HM Plant Honda while John McGuinness will be riding the Superstock Padgetts Honda.
Eight times NW200 winner Steve Plater enjoyed two wins in last year’s Superbike and Supersport races while McGuinness came third in the first Superbike race and fourth in the first Supersport race last year.
Conor Cummins will be riding for McAdoo Kawasaki Racing. He came fifth in last year’s Superbike race, just ahead of Guy Martin who will be riding on the Wilson Craig Honda this year.
BBC TV coverage
BBC Sport Northern Ireland revealed details of coverage plans for the international event. Shane Glynn, sport editor, BBC Northern Ireland, said, “It’s the first year of a new five year contract for BBC NI, and we’ve been busy working out ways that we can improve and build on the output we’ve already successfully delivered.
“The North West 200 is such an exciting event, and everyone on the BBC NI team – on radio, TV and online - and our partners from Greenlight TV, are very much looking forward to the challenge”, he said.
Last month, organisers of the International North West 200 revealed Relentless as the new title sponsor for the event.
Maire Campbell, Head of Public Affairs & Communications, commented: “On behalf of Relentless energy drink we are proud to be title sponsor of Ireland’s most prestigious motor racing event; the Relentless International North West 200 in association with Black Horse.
”The North West 200 certainly represents an outstanding example of a superb community event and it brings so much to Northern Ireland not only attracting the highest calibre of sporting personalities which includes our own Relentless TAS Suzuki team, it also attracts tourism and boosts the local economy, giving Northern Ireland International exposure and we look forward to an exhilarating day of racing!”
For the first time in the history of the International North West 200, Thursday practice times will take place during the day, with roads closing between 9.30am and 3pm.
The move has been hailed by organisers, teams and competitors as a major safety improvement for the event.
Plater, said the change showed a “very professional approach and provides a much safer competitor environment.”
HM Plant Honda team manager Havier Beltran, who was in attendance at the press conference, described the move as “ great news” and “an important step forward for the event."
Grandstand sales on-line
Grandstand sales are live from Feb 26 on the NW200 official website www.northwest200.org.
A new booking system in is place, designed to make seat reservation easier, and the new grandstand, paddock and programme packages available at special discounted costs will also be available to purchase.
As part of a new initiative to create a better ‘NW200 Experience’ for everyone, the NW200 official website now features visitor information, a family guide to the event and key vantage points for spectators.
Redback Creations and NW200 organisers have been working on the development of the website to ensure that planning a trip to the Relentless International North West 200 in association with Blackhorse is as simple as possible.