North West 200 launch date confirmed at Titanic Belfast

Tyco BMW rider William Dunlop
Tyco BMW rider William Dunlop

A host of stars will be in attendance at the 2015 launch of the Vauxhall International North West 200, which will be held at Titanic Belfast on March 24.

Tyco BMW’s William Dunlop and Alastair Seeley plus Isle of Man TT big guns Michael Dunlop and John McGuinness are among the headline guests, when fans will have the opportunity to grab an autograph or photo as part of the popular ‘Meet the Riders’ event.

A number of big surprises are in the pipeline for launch day and a limited quantity of tickets will be available, with details on how to apply due to be announced later this month.

Plans are also afoot to run a series of chat shows in the paddock marquee during race week at the North West 200 this year, with MotoGP rider Eugene Laverty and 21-times TT winner McGuinness confirming their participation, when the pair will provide fans with an insight into their racing careers.

Details on how to book tickets will be revealed later this month via the official NW200 website at www.northwest200.org or via the event’s Facebook page.

This year, racing legend Mick Grant will return to the seaside meeting, where his record-breaking 1975 750cc Kawasaki will be on display in the paddock.

Grant will also participate in a special parade lap on the machine on race day, which the Yorkshireman powered to a new lap record of 122.62mph 40 years ago, making the North West 200 the UK’s fastest circuit at the time.

NW200 Event Director, Mervyn Whyte, said: “No-one enjoys getting the inside story of all the paddock gossip more than me and it is always great to hear our heroes tell their own stories about the races they have won and lost.

“I can’t wait to meet Mick, John, Eugene and all the rest of the riders again at these special events and we are working hard to make the 2015 Race Week a very special occasion for everyone who loves road racing as much as we do.”

Meanwhile, Laverty was back on track again on Thursday for the second day of the Sepang MotoGP test on the Drive M7 Aspar Honda, when the Northern Ireland man continued to experiment with his riding position on the Open class prototype as he adapts his riding style following four years on Superbike machinery.

Laverty was 24th fastest with a best time of 2m 03.129s, with team-mate Nicky Hayden 19th on the time sheets after a lap on 2m 02.228s.

Movistar Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo topped the leaderboard on his factory YZR-M1 in 1m 59.963s from Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso (2m 00.015s), Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez (2m 00.146s) and his team-mate Dani Pedrosa (2m 00.260s).

Valentino Rossi, second fastest on Wednesday, was sixth quickest after battling chatter issues with his Yamaha, lapping in 2m 00.676s.

The test concludes on Friday, with a separate Michelin tyre test taking place on Saturday ahead of the manufacturer’s introduction as MotoGP’s official supplier from 2016.