BBC Sport NI will provide extensive coverage of the 2013 Vauxhall International North West 200 road races on TV, radio and online, plus high-definition coverage of the event for the first time.
Now in its 84th year, the North West 200 of 2013 looks set to be one of the most closely contested for many years with the organisers securing a top quality international line-up, featuring several stars from both road and circuit racing.
Live online coverage via the BBC Sport NI website will begin with the first practice session on Tuesday, May 14, followed by practice and evening races on Thursday, May 16, then the concluding races on Saturday, May 18, with two seperate highlights shows on BBC One NI following.
Tens of thousands of fans will line the nine-mile circuit on race day to see the best riders in the world pit their wits against each other at speeds approaching 200mph, in Northern Ireland’s most popular and biggest sporting events.
Much attention will focus on the performance of Australian star Josh Brookes, a newcomer to the North West 200 who will be hoping to transfer his prowess on the circuits to the roads of Portstewart, Coleraine and Portrush, and make an immediate impact in the colours of his Tyco TAS Suzuki team.
But it will be Alastair Seeley who starts as favourite to add to his tally of eight North West wins as he takes in the Superbike, Superstock and Supersport classes.
The Carrickfergus rider will be the main standard-bearer for Kawasaki, having ended his productive association with the TAS Suzuki outfit during the winter.
Also flying the flag for Northern Ireland will be Honda-mounted Michael Dunlop and his elder brother William, who is in the Yamaha camp this season.
Michael has shown promising early season form in the colours of the Honda Legends World Endurance team, and has also enjoyed Superbike doubles at the Cookstown 100 and Tandragee Irish national races.
The 24-year-old has yet to win a four-stroke race at the seaside circuit and will want to make up for a disappointing 2012 North West 200, which failed to yield a podium finish.
William is part of the Milwaukee Yamaha British Superbike outfit and will be a strong contender to add to last year’s victory in the Supersport 600 class.
Isle of Man TT legend John McGuinness joins Dunlop in the Honda ranks, with his best chance of success likely to come in the showcase Superbike events.
Michael Rutter is joint second with Joey Dunlop on the all-time winners’ list with 13, but the Midlands maestro may struggle to add to that total as he continues to recover from an injury sustained in pre-season testing.
New Zealander Bruce Anstey should be a strong challenger for rostrum positions in every class on his fleet of Padgett’s Hondas, while England’s Simon Andrews has the necessary pedigree, having set the fastest lap ever by a newcomer at the event 12 months ago.
Cameron Donald still seeks the first North West win of his career as he continues in the colours of the Wilson Craig Honda team.
Scot Stuart Easton returns to the nine-mile roads course just two years after a major practice crash on the fast Cromore section of the course almost ended his racing days.
Easton and Seeley are set for a potentially explosive clash in the Supersport races, and the Mar-Train Yamaha star will also take in the Superbike jousts.
Josh Brookes’ Suzuki team-mate Guy Martin is another looking for his maiden success on the Triangle circuit, while Conor Cummins will try to make up for the disappointment of crashing out, through no fault of his own, at the Mather’s Cross Chicane last year as he partners Dunlop in the factory Yamaha squad.
Popular British Superbike Championship regular Karl Harris also makes his debut at the event.
The NW200 features two Superbike races on the main Saturday race day and these races are seen by the fans as the showpiece events.
Past winners have included some of the road racing greats, such as Joey Dunlop, Robert Dunlop, Phillip McCallen, Carl Fogarty and the likes of Michael Rutter and John McGuinness.
BBC Sport NI has comprehensive coverage of this year’s North West 200 which will see the event televised in High Definition for the first time.
BBC One NI’s coverage will include an extended Friday night preview programme, and two one-hour highlights programmes on Sunday and Monday (May 18-19), all presented by Stephen Watson and Phillip McCallen.
Race commentary will be led by Richard Nichols, with contributions from special guests including BBC MotoGP commentator Steve Parrish.
There will also be reports and special features from behind-the-scenes on BBC Newsline throughout race week.
Both practice sessions and every race will be live on the BBC Radio Ulster MW and on the BBC Sport NI website (bbc.co.uk/sportni).
TV coverage will be provided by Greenlight Television, and will feature up to 28 camera angles provided by trackside cameras, the aerial helicopter camera and on-board cameras.
“We’ll have super slo-mo cameras, kerb cams, and on boards to capture the best coverage of the event,” said BBC Sport NI editor Shane Glynn.
“Last year’s new format was very successful, and we’ll have live coverage of both practice sessions and Thursday night’s racing on both Radio Ulster and via our online site.”
Saturday’s racing at the North West 200 was abandoned because of heavy rain, with Michael Dunlop winning the only race to take place.
Race director Mervyn Whyte made the announcement to call off the event following persistent rainfall.
Ballymoney rider Dunlop won the Supersport race, which was stopped after two laps following minor accidents on the Triangle circuit.
A disappointed Whyte is calling for a change in road closing orders to allow organisers the flexibility to run races to coincide with favourable weather forecasts.
The abandonment means that BBC Northern Ireland will not screen a highlights show on Sunday evening, but the scheduled Monday broadcast will go ahead.
OFFICIAL WEBSITE BBC SPORT NI WEBSITE Tuesday 14th May Practice Session 1 Newcomers, Supersport, Superbike, Supertwins, Superstock LIVE: 10.00am-2.30pm – BBC Sport NI Website Thursday 16th May Practice Session 2 Supertwins, Superstock, Supersport and Superbike LIVE: 10.00am-2.30pm – BBC Sport NI Website Evening Racing Supersport Race (6 laps) Supertwin Race (4 laps) Superstock Race (6 laps) LIVE: 5.15pm-9.00pm – BBC Sport NI Website Friday 17th May Bikes! – North West 200 Preview 10.35pm-11.15pm – BBC One NI Saturday 18th May Vauxhall International 2013 Race Day Supersport Race (6 laps) Superbike Race (6 laps)
Supertwin Race (4 laps)
Superstock Race (6 laps)
NW200 Superbike Race (6 laps) LIVE: 10.00am-6.30pm – BBC Sport NI Website Sunday 19th May Bikes! – North West 200 (Show 1) Highlights: 10.25pm-11.25pm – BBC One NI (Cancelled) Monday 20th May Bikes! – North West 200 (Show 2) Highlights: 10.35pm-11.35pm – BBC One NI