THE Coleraine club are to give free entries across the board at this year’s North West 200.
Speaking last week, Mervyn Whyte, Race Director for the meeting said: “The Coleraine club is well aware of the pressures facing riders at the moment as they struggle to find sponsorship and supportto get to the grid.
“We have tried to take a positive step to make it easier for everyone to race at this year’s North West.”
This news will be welcomed by riders who are having to pay £100 per race at the meeting. It probably won’t be welcomed by organisers of less well-off clubs who are struggling to make ends meet in running their road race events.
Undoubtedly they will now come under pressure to axe entry fees - a move thats totally impractical for the majority of races.
On the subject of the North West, as it is run under an FIM permit, there are a number of important rule changes that are to be implemented for this year.
The first, and one of the most important, is the fact that all machines must be fitted with a front brake lever guard. This is to stop the lever being broken off in the event of an accidental collision with another rider or in a crash, or to prevent the brake being accidentally applied in the event of a collision with another rider.
The communication I have says that a ‘brake light’ must be fitted as per FIM regs. I’m not too sure about this, as I have seen small LEDs fitted to bikes at GP level, that are used in rain or diminished visibility, but they are not brake lights as such.
Having checked FIM regs the rule is ‘A red rear light must be displayed on all bikes in wet conditions (as in F1)’ Nowhere does it mention that it has to be a light that works off the brakes, so perhaps that is something that will need clarified.
From 2014 only 17” wheels will be permitted in the Superbike class, so this years North West will allow either 16.5” or 17” wheels.
I’m sad to have to report that one of the stalwarts of the North Armagh club, Joe McKeown has passed away. Today, Tuesday, would have been his 85th birthday.
As long as I had been going to the Tandragee 100, since the mid 60’s, Joe was there, acting in some capacity or another. He was the Clerk of the Course for 4 years, in the 60’s, and held every single post, bar treasurer, within the club at one time or another. He was secretary for 25 years.
My very first solo road race was at Tandragee. In those days, in the 200 class, there were 3 groups of 30 riders plus about 10 or 15 reserves, of which I was the final one. After my practice, the groups were worked out and I was the only one not getting to race.
I was heartbroken, because it was, at that time, my local race. I’ll never forget Joe, who was on the grid, coming back to me and telling me: ‘Sure, join in at the back. Nobody’ll notice anyway.’ It was small things like that which set him apart. It was a simple kindness that I never forgot.
It’s not only his 4 daughters, Venita, Lorraine, Diane and Jeanette who will miss Joe, but every single member of the many organisations that he set up and worked so hard to promote. His contribution to motorcycle sport is was enormous.
He was a man who I was proud to have called a friend and who I will miss greatly. To his daughters and other family I offer my sympathies.
‘ARCHI’ CALLS IT A DAY
The sport of road racing has taken a further body blow, with the announcement that Adrian Archibald is to hang up his leathers.
This comes hard on the heels of the retirement of Ryan Farquhar and John Burrows, as well as a number of other, less well known riders.
Adrian’s decision came after talks with his backers FB McKee showed that he would not enjoy the same level of support from them that he had in recent years. Running his own team was never going to be an option, as the finances simply were not there to do it.
“I sat down with my sponsor and we decided that we wouldn’t run the team this year. After that I decided I’d just forget about
it. Sponsorship was going to be light enough this year and between the two of us we decided that would be it. I would say I’ll probably never race again, and it’s not something that really bothers me.”
His career gave him 6 wins at the Ulster Grand Prix and 3 at the TT, both circuits he lists among his favourites. It’s near on impossible to forget the 2003 TT where he won both the F1 and the Senior races, just days after the death of team mate David Jefferies.
Adrian also had a single win at the North West, also in 2003, when he took the Production race.
It’ll be a shame to see Adrian quitting. While he never was one to go out of his way to find press or other media he was never hard to deal with and was never found without a smile and a pleasant word for anyone who crossed his path.
He always turned out a good professional team and the paddocks will be a lot poorer for his retirement.