The North West 200 is a motorcycle race which takes place on the roads between Portstewart, Coleraine and Portrush. The name comes from the location of the originally proposed course near the city of Londonderry in the North West of Ulster and the 200 miles which the early competitors were expected to race. The name stuck despite the relocation to the North Coast.
The first race took place on 20th April 1929, when the racers raced on the public roads for 18 laps starting at Magherabuoy Crossroads outside Portrush. The riders started at timed intervals and only eight of the 31 riders completed the race! W. J. McCracken from Belfast was the first winner.
Over the years, the North West 200 has become the biggest sporting event in Ireland with over 100,000 spectators crowding along the racetrack. In 2007, around two million people logged on from nearly every part of the world to watch what has become one of the world’s fastest road races, and the event is streamed worldwide via television and online. The race still takes place on public roads, but the laps are shorter, and each race only has 4-5 laps. It has become a week-long festival and the riders can practise on the circuit before they compete in the two days of races. Local riders such as the Dunlop family, Alistair Seeley and Philip McCallen have achieved success in the North West 200 and the spectators who watch from all along the course are treated to incredible skill and spectacle as the riders race on the roads at speeds over 200mph!
At the paddocks near Portstewart and at organised events around the circuit during race week, spectators are able to meet the riders, buy official merchandise, visit pop-up markets, view stunt shows, view the bikes, the old car parade and participate in other public events.