The History of the NW200
The International North West 200 is Ireland’s largest outdoor sporting event. The first event’s 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 Ltd who continues to run the event today.
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.
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.