Questions - The future of the NW200

Will this event ever return to its former glory?

Make no mistake, the North West 200 still has the ability to draw hundreds of thousands to the north coast of Ireland, But in the hayday of this event, health and safety wasn't as big a concern as it is now. Today, the list of obstacles that the organisers have to overcome is growing each year. Rumours of financial hardship and sponsorship issues. Mervyn Whyte stepping down from NW200 after 20 years. Public liability is a nightmare to insure against for many reasons. As we draw closer to the traditional date in May when the excitement around this event would have been building, there's nothing to look forward to. Covid-19 has seen the event cancelled for the second year running. Like many other events, I wonder, will the NW200 ever really be able to recover?

Is it too dangerous?

Many would argue that the appeal of this event is because of that obvious element of danger. The unknown, the sheer speed of these machines as they power around the public roads at literal break neck speed. It's not your average motorbike race however. This race takes place on our public roads. Where the 30 mph and national speed limits are meant to be adhered to less the law be broken.

Watching a vehicle reach speeds of 200+ mph on roads that we drive to work everyday, is breath taking. It truly is a visceral experience and impossible to really put into words. The smell, the overwhelming sounds, the deep roar of the bikes as they storm past is something to behold.

The element of danger is something the race organisers can't get away from. No matter how much work goes into the safety of the riders and spectators alike, the danger it is unavoidable. It's impossible to mitigate.

Deaths during this event are becoming all too common and it's heart breaking. Time and time again when a rider dies during the race, I hear the argument, "they died doing what they loved". It's hard to disagree with this romantic sentiment, but how can this be justified in this day and age?

In a world gone mad with health and safety and risk assessments, its hard to wrap your head around the 'calculated risk' that takes place during this race week.

That's all good and well, but imagine if this kind of event was to be introduced anew in 2021. It would be laughed out of council for such an insance proposal. Far too dangerous to even consider. But because this event has been running for over 90 years now, it's embedded in our 'culture', much like 60ft bonfires on the 11th July. Like so many things in Northern Ireland that take shelter under the 'culture umbrella'.

Is the future of this event in jeoprady?

2019 being the last time this event ran, feels like a distant memory now with many fans already planning their holidays for 2022.

Again, covid-19 has changed the landscape of so many things that we know and love. Many events that were a big part of our society for so long will never be the same again.

Time will tell.