Macau champion returns to the International North West 200

STUART Easton, one of the UK's leading motorcycle riders, will be returning to this year's Relentless International North West 200 in association with Black Horse following a three year absence from the event.

Twice winner of Macau in 2008 and 2009, Easton from Scottish Borders town Hawick also finished in the top 3 in the 2009 MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship and announced his return to the famous nine-mile circuit at this month’s press conference, held in BBC’s Blackstaff Studio. Easton plans to compete riding the same Swan Honda Fireblade machine which helped him take the trophy in Macau and believes he will be a strong contender at this year’s North West 200.

“I entered as a rookie in 2004 but my bike suffered a series of mechanical problems so my debut wasn’t overly memorable. However in 2006 I gained 4th and 6th positions in the Supersport races and this year I’m really hoping to improve my NW200 record. As well as competing in the Superbike races, I’ll be riding in the Superstock event.”

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Also present at the press conference were riders Ian Hutchinson, Conor Cummins, Alistair Seeley, Michael and William Dunlop, Keith Amor and Ryan Farquhar. Yorkshire rider Ian Hutchinson first raced at the NW200 in 2005 and clinched a trophy in 2006 achieving lap records in the 600cc and Superstock races. This year ‘Hutchy’ plans to compete in five races under the Padgetts Honda banner. Relentless TAS Suzuki team members Cameron Donald and Bruce Anstey are set to enter both Supersport races, the Superstock and both Superbike races whilst Alistair Seeley plans to compete in the Superstock race.

Michael Dunlop aims to ride in both Superbike and 600cc Supersport races and the Superstock race whilst William will compete in the 125, Superstock, both Superbike and Supersport races. Dungannon ace Ryan Farquhar will enter the Superbike races on board the MSS Kawasakis and will compete in the 600cc and Superstock races on KMR kawasakis.

Looking ahead to Race Day on Saturday 15th May, Race Director Mervyn Whyte MBE also announced plans for the Ballymoney Borough Council 600cc Supersport, Clinton Enterprises 600cc Supersport and Greenline North West 200 Superbike races.

He said, “We are delighted to be welcoming Stuart back to the event and he has certainly made his mark at the International North West 200 in past years. We are also very pleased to welcome Ballymoney Borough Council, Clinton Enterprises and Greenline back onboard as race sponsors. All three organisations have been loyal supporters of the North West 200 and their ongoing support is deeply appreciated.

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“Our sincere thanks too must go to Shane Glynn and his talented team at BBC Sport Northern Ireland. It is a pleasure to work with such a professional and enthusiastic media partner and enjoy extensive on-line, television and radio coverage of exceptional quality. We are delighted to hold the press conference in the famous Blackstaff studios and are most grateful to BBC Northern Ireland for their vital partnership with us”, said Mervyn Whyte.

Other top riders competing will be Steve Plater and John McGuinness, both of whom have shared numerous successes in previous Race Days. Eight times champion Steve Plater enjoyed two wins in last year’s Superbike and Supersport races while McGuinness came 3rd in the first Superbike race and 4th in the first Supersport race last year.

Steve Plater and John McGuinness will both be riding HM Plant Hondas in the Superbike races and Padgetts Hondas for the 600cc. For the Superstock race, Plater will be on the Superstock HM Plant Honda while John McGuinness will be riding the Superstock Padgetts Honda. Michael and William Dunlop have both enjoyed success with William coming 5th and Michael 3rd in 2009’s Supersport race.

Other riders include the Isle of Man’s Conor Cummins, who this year will be competing for McAdoo Kawasaki Racing. Conor came 5th in 2009’s Superbike race, just ahead of Guy Martin who will be riding on the Wilson Craig Honda this year.

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BBC Sport Northern Ireland revealed details of coverage plans for the international event. Shane Glynn, sport editor, BBC Northern Ireland, said, “It’s hard to believe that the North West 200 is just around the corner again. Mervyn and his colleagues from Coleraine & District Motor Club have implemented some structural changes behind the scenes, and we’re looking forward to working closely with the new Management team. It’s the first year of a new five year contract for BBC NI, and we’ve been busy working out ways that we can improve and build on the output we’ve already successfully delivered.

“The North West 200 is such an exciting event, and everyone on the BBC NI team – on radio, TV and online - and our partners from Greenlight TV, are very much looking forward to the challenge”, he said.

Race Director Mervyn Whyte also announced a new partnership with the Belfast Telegraph who will this year sponsor the NW200’s state of the art Media Centre. “We’re thrilled that the Belfast Telegraph will lend its name to our high profile Media Centre and support the event as print media partner and would like to thank Group Sports Editor Jim Gracey and his team for their excellent in paper support.”

Last month, organisers of the International North West 200 revealed Relentless as the new title sponsor for the event. Maire Campbell, Head of Public Affairs & Communications, commented “On behalf of Relentless energy drink we are proud to be title sponsor of Ireland’s most prestigious motor racing event; the Relentless International North West 200 in association with Black Horse.

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”As a local company, we have been supporting sports in the community for the past 70 years and there is none more prestigious and well renowned than the North West 200. The North West 200 certainly represents an outstanding example of a superb community event and it brings so much to Northern Ireland not only attracting the highest calibre of sporting personalities which includes our own Relentless TAS Suzuki team, it also attracts tourism and boosts the local economy, giving Northern Ireland International exposure and we look forward to an exhilarating day of racing!”

Mervyn Whyte also welcomed Honda Team manager and race team manager

Neil Tuxworth and Havier Beltran and thanked them for lending their support to the BBC press conference. Praising the professionalism of North West 200 organisers, Neil Tuxworth said, “The North West 200 circuit is one of the fastest and most exciting road races in the world. It is truly a unique event and I commend Mervyn and his team for their strong commitment to safety and unyielding dedication to improving the North West 200 year after year.”

The 2010 North West 200 Superbike race will, for the first time, be sponsored by Greenline. The race was sponsored in previous years by Black Horse, the new associate sponsor of the event. Steve Harper, Group Sales & Marketing Manger of Greenline said, “Greenline Portable Accommodation Hire Specialists are once again proud to be an official race sponsor of the North West 200. Having provided the extensive portfolio of portable accommodation used at the North West 200 event for over a decade, we are delighted to be able to continue our association with Coleraine & District Motor Club in this immensely successful event, and to help in its further development by this sponsorship support.

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He added, “We are thrilled to be associated with such an exciting, fast, spectacular and professionally managed event. We look forward to a safe and exciting event and wish everyone involved the best of luck. Finally we are confident to congratulate Mervyn, his full team and all the riders in advance, for what will no doubt again be the sporting event of the year.”

The 600cc Supersport Race, sponsored by Clinton Enterprises, will run as the first race on the 15th May. Tim Clinton, Managing Director of Clinton Enterprises Ltd, said, “I have been involved in the International North West 200 for over 10 years and have seen it grow from strength to strength. It is the crme de la crme of sporting events and I am very pleased that Clinton Enterprises is a race sponsor. I wish all involved a safe and successful Race Week.”

Clinton Enterprises is the official merchandiser for the Relentless International North West 200 in association with Blackhorse. A wide variety of fully branded team merchandise including jackets, T-shirts and baseball caps will be available from the marquees around the circuit.

Ballymoney Borough Council will once again sponsor the final race of the programme, the 600cc Supersport Race 2.

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