Alongside this week’s Meet the Stars event, the organisers of the fonaCAB and Nicholl Oils North West 200 welcomed a coterie of newcomer talent for two induction days on the 8.9 mile Triangle circuit.
Furthest travelled was Gerald Dalt, a 36 year old rider from Montpellier in France. The former professional skier has raced in the European International Road Race championship.
“There is so much detail that I have to learn.” he said after completing several laps of the NW200 circuit in the company of former race winner, Steve Plater, race boss Mervyn Whyte and Clerk of the Course, Stanleigh Murray.
Dalt hopes to compete in the Supertwin and Supersport classes come May 7-13.
“There will be a lot of heavy braking areas, and a lot of very fast sections plus the coast road looks very technical.” were the French racer’s first impressions.
Kidderminster’s Martin Morris has competed on the roads at Scarborough’s Oliver’s Mount circuit, the Cookstown 100 and in the Manx Grand Prix, finishing 8th in the Twins race last year. The 32 year old hopes to race a BMW Superstock machine and an Aprilia twin on the Triangle circuit.
“I think I will enjoy the NW200 course.” Morris said after his first sighting laps.
“The roads are wide plus very fast and flowing. I am looking forward to learning it on the Supertwin machine and then see how we go on the big bike.”
Fellow Englishman, Don Gilbert has entered this year’s North West on a ZX6RR Kawasaki and a Superstock-spec Suzuki. He is hoping to benefit from his 12 years of racing experience on the roads of the Ulster Grand Prix, Oliver’s Mount, the Manx Grand Prix and at the Southern 100.
The 31 year old says he had already completed a lot of research on the NW200 circuit before this week’s visit.
“It was more or less what I had expected although it felt a bit more bumpy than I thought it might be.” he said.
Leon Jeacock was the most experienced of the quartet of newcomers who made the trip to Portrush this week having raced since 2007 in the British championships. The former winner of the Stars of Darley event has also been a frequent visitor to the North West 200 over the past decade as a mechanic in Michael Dunlop’s Hawk Racing squad.
“It is funny seeing the course this week with no paddock set-up or grandstands because I hadn’t seen it like that before.” Jeacock, who has entered this year’s NW200 on Superstock machinery, smiled.
“I love the high speed of the course and am really looking forward to taking on Station corner.”
Belfast rider Darren Duncan, who also attended the first induction day, also hopes to compete in the Supertwin races at this year’s event.
“We have been delighted to have such an experienced and talented group of newcomers with us this week.” NW200 organiser, Mervyn Whyte said.
“We had already planned the induction days and had decided to continue with them despite the recent difficulties Irish road racing has experienced around insurance. David Datzer, the German rider who finished second at last year’s Macau Grand Prix, had planned to join us too but he was sidelined by a bout of pneumonia. We look forward to David and the rest of the newcomers joining us in May provided we can resolve the current difficulties.”