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The History of the North West 200

The History of the NW200

What’s in a name?

Many people ask why the North West 200 is called the North West 200. The answer lies in the spawning of the event. History reveals that although the Club’s original choice of name for the race remained, their original choice of venue did not. The name has continued to generate some confusion amongst those who are unaware of the event’s origins. The inclusion of “200” simply indicates that the event was originally run over a distance of 200 miles. “North West”, reflects the original intended, location of the race, i.e. on a public roads course in the North West of Ireland.

The North West 200’s first organisers could not have imagined how the event would grow over the years. In 1964, the North West 200 event was handed over to the Coleraine & District Motor Club which continues to run the event today. In 2007, around two million people logged on from nearly every part of the world to watch what has become Ireland’s largest sporting event and one of the world’s fastest road races.

 

North West 200 Timeline

1930

Start/Finish area moved from original location near Magherabuoy to Portstewart.Meeting held as a scratch event.

1934

Jimmy Guthrie wins the first of four consecutive 500cc wins and sets the first lap of 80 mph or more in the process.

1939

Last meeting held before the outbreak of WWII. Ernie Lyons (Triumph) is the only 500cc finisher.

1947

Racing resumes on the Triangle circuit after the end of the Second World War despite shortages of fuel and tyres. Artie Bell wins the 500cc class. No racing held in 1948 but Bell wins again in 1949 and in 1950 records the first International win for the Featherbed Norton.

1953

Gilera make their debut at the NW 200 ridden by Dickie Dale and Reg Armstrong. Dale fails to finish and Armstrong finishes 500cc third. Ray Amm gives the Silver Bullet Norton it's only competitive racing outing in the 350cc event. The revolutionary machine fails to finish the race.

1954

Armstrong wins for Gilera in 1954 and finshes runner up behind his Gilera team mate Geoff Duke in 1955.

1955

Alan Lyons (NSU) wins the 250cc race. Alan and Ernie Lyons are the first brothers to win the North West 200. Only Joey and Robert Dunlop can claim the same distinction.

1957

Jack Brett records the first 100 mph lap of the Triangle circuit riding Lord Montagu's Norton to 500cc victory.

1958

Mike Hailwood's (NSU) only racing appearance at the NW 200. He finishes runner up to Sammy Millar (NSU) in the 250cc race.

1961

Bob McIntyre scores a famous 500cc and 350cc double riding Matchless and AJS machinery.

1964

First NW 200 win for a Japanese manufacturer, Ralph Bryans wins the 350cc and 250cc races for the Honda factory.

1965

Dick Crieth wins the 500cc race for the second year in a row riding Joe Ryan's Fireplace Norton. Last NW 200 win for Norton until Robert Dunlop win for the British manufacturer in 1990.

Peter Williams 1966

Peter Williams 500cc winner 1966

1968

Yamaha's first NW 200 win at the NW 200 with Rod Gould's victory in the 250cc race

1970

Suzuki win their first race at the NW 200, Stuart Graham wins the 500cc Production race.

John Cooper 1970

John Cooper 500cc winner 1970

1971

Last NW 200 ran over the original circuit running the length of Portstewart prom, with John Cooper (500cc), Paul Smart (350cc), & Derek Chatterton (250cc) winning the three classes on the day

1972

No NW 200 held due to civil unrest in Northern Ireland

1974

John Williams wins the 350cc, 500cc and 750cc races to become the first rider to claim a hat trick of victories in one day.

John Willams 1974

John Williams 350cc, 500cc and 750cc winner 1974

1977

Ray McCullough and Tony Rutter (both Yamaha) cross the finishing line absolutely together at the end of the 350cc race. This result remains the only dead heat finish in the history of the NW 200.

1978

Tom Herron records a lap of 127.63 mph during the Superbike race. This record stood as the fastest lap ever recorded on any British race circuit until 2003.

1979

Joey Dunlop wins his first  races on the Triangle circuit in the events 50th anniversary year. The 1979 is still regarded as the darkest day in it's history after crashes claimed the lives of three riders, Tom Herron, Brian Hamilton and Frank Kennedy.

Tom Herron 1979

Tom Herron in action in 1979

1983

A chicane is introduced at Juniper Hill. Joey Dunlop wins the 500cc and Superbike Races.

1986

Robert Dunlop beats Gene McDonnell in a close finish to claim his first NW 200 win in the 350cc race.

1987

Joey Dunlop takes a famous hat trick at the meeting winning the 750cc Production Race and both Superbike Races.

Joey Dunlop 1987

Joey Dunlop on course to his famous 1987 victories

1989

Steve Hislop wins his only races at the North West 200, the 750cc King of the Roads race and the Superbike race.

1990

Robert Dunlop storms to a hat trick of wins comprising two Superbike Race vicories on the legendary JPS Norton and the 125cc race win.1991 Robert Dunlop scores a second consecutive hat trick with 125cc, 250cc and 750cc wins

1992

Philip McCallen makes the Triangle circuit his own with an unprecedented five wins in a day. McCallen blitzes the opposition in the 400cc, 600cc, 250cc and both Superbike races. He slides off in the second 250cc race. Could it have been six wins in a day?

Philip McCallan on motorbike

Philip McCallan wins an unprecedented five races

1993

Robert Dunlop takes his third hat trick at the meeting with a 125cc and two 250cc wins.

Robert Dunlop 1993

Robert Dunlop riding for Ducati in 1993

1994

Robert Dunlop once again scores a hat trick of wins, taking the 125cc race and both Superbike Race wins. In the process he claims the first International victory for Honda's RC 45 machine.

1997

Michael Rutter opens his North West 200 account with 600cc and Superbike wins. Owen McNally scores a famous 250cc win and Philip McCallan wins his eleventh and last NW 200 win in the Superbike Race.

1999

David Jefferies takes a treble at the meeting with a 600cc win and victories in both Superbike races

David Jefferies 1999

David Jefferies wins a treble in 1999

2000

Joey Dunlop starts what will prove to be his last North West 200 on pole position for both Superbike races. Michael Rutters claims a hat trick with a 600cc win and victories in both Superbike races.

2001

No NW 200 held due to ongoing Foot and Mouth disease crisis

2002

Bruce Anstey creates a sensation by setting pole position and then taking the win in the Production Race on his debut at the meeting

2003

Ryan Farquhar takes both 600cc Supersport race wins for Kawasaki

2004

Ian Lougher wins the 125cc race giving him an unbroken run of five back to back wins in the class. Lougher won every 125cc race held at the NW 200 between 1999 to 2004. Michael Rutter makes history after becoming the first rider to record a straight line speed in excess of 200 mph on the penultimate lap of the second Superbike Race on the 2004 programme. He also wins both Superbike races at the meeting.

Michael Rutter

Michael Rutter makes history in 2005

2005

Ian Lougher decides not to contest the 125cc race, and wins the Superstock Race instead, but only after an epic battle with Bruce Anstey

North West 2005 winners

Ian Lougher, winner of the Superstock race

2006

Steve Plater wins both Superbike Races, ten years after making his North West 200 debut. Robert Dunlop wins a thrilling 125cc race from Michael Wilcox to score his record making fifteenth and last victory on the Triangle Circuit.

2007

Bruce Anstey recovers from a crash in the opening race of the meeting to score an emphatic hat trick of wins, claiming victory in the Superstock race and in both 600cc Supersport races.

2008

North West 200 legend Robert Dunlop loses his life after crashing at Mather's Cross in practice. Less than two days later his son Michael wins the 250cc race amidst unprecedented highly emotional scenes. Michael Rutter takes a Superbike win for the newly formed Kennedy North West 200 Ducati Team. Steve Plater wins both 600cc Supersport races and a Superbike Race win to claim a memorable treble.

William and Robert Dunlop

Fatherly advise from Robert to Michael Dunlop in 2008.

2009

The North West 200 marks eighty years since it was first held on the Triangle circuit.

 

Excerpt taken from 'The Power and the Glory'

Kindly provided by Author - Alistair McCook

The morning of the 20th April 1929 broke brilliantly. As the minutes ticked towards the appointed starting time, it was a perfect day in early summer. At the starting point at Magherabouy, almost exactly where the chicane is now situated on the course, a grandstand had been erected on the right hand side of the road. Directly opposite were the pits, where riders would stop to refuel throughout the 200 mile race. A marquee selling refreshments was erected nearby, and a brass band entertained the gathering crowds. And here began what is today’s largest outdoor sporting event.

As the sun shone down from a cloudless, blue sky, the Derry and District Motor Club’s long standing dream of running a high profile, international motor cycle road race finally became reality. The now world renowned North West 200 was first held seventy eight years ago as a handicap event over a stunning 11 mile triangle circuit, connecting Coleraine, Portrush and Portstewart.

At one o’clock – the starting time of the first North West 200 race - three riders pushed their machines into life from the starting point at Magherabuoy, and began the sloping, downhill run into Portrush. They were A McIntyre, (Abingdon KD), R B Patterson, (348cc O.E.C), and RM Osbourne (348cc Raleigh), the limit men, the riders who had been given the most generous handicap. For most of the next hour the reminder of the thirty-one starters started off in intervals of varying length.

The North West 200 was a long time in planning. By early 1929, the Derry and District Motor Club’s plans to organise and stage an event of International importance were well on track, albeit somewhat changed from what had originally been envisaged. The Club was confident that the North West 200 would prove highly attractive to manufacturers, giving them the opportunity of an early season shakedown of machinery, this in turn would draw star names and works entries could be guaranteed straight away.

North West 200 organisers broke away from tradition: 200 miles was not a distance commonly used in 1929, and expert opinion advised that a race ran over 100 miles would be more popular. In retrospect, the decision to run the event over the longer distance made it a rigorous pre-TT test of reliability that factory teams couldn’t ignore. The decision to run the event on a handicap basis was also at odds with established formats at the time as the Continental Grands Prix and the Isle of Man TT races were all raced on a scratch basis.