Sports Minister Gregory Campbell today joined thousands of fans to enjoy the carnival atmosphere and excitement at the North West 200.
Speaking during the event the Minister said: â€œAs a visitor behind the scenes, and a spectator here today, I am seeing at first hand the hard work and determination that goes into making this event possible each year. It is the magnificent achievements of all the riders, organisers and volunteers that have made the North West 200 an international success and enabled it to grow year on year to reach this milestone 80th birthday.â€
Since its inception in 1929 the North West 200 has grown into one of the fastest road races in the world, attracting over 150,000 visitors from home and abroad and generating over Â£7million for Northern Irelandâ€™s economy.
The Minister continued: â€œOver the years my Department has demonstrated its commitment to making this event a success through the provision of funding. In 2007 my predecessor, Edwin Poots MLA, announced funding of Â£150,000 to help improve safety at the circuit. This was followed by an additional Â£100,000 which was aimed specifically at upgrading safety at various motor sport circuits throughout Northern Ireland. The North West 200 was allocated Â£34,855 of this money.
â€œIn 2008, my Department awarded the Coleraine & District Motorcycle Club Â£175,000 over a three year period to contribute towards the cost of employing a Business Development/ Operations Manager, and also developing the organisationâ€™s web-presence.
â€œIn addition, with a further Â£100,000 funding through Sport NI the organisers of the North West were able resurface the paddock area and, a successful application in 2009, brought further funding of Â£45,000 to support the introduction of two new marketing campaigns.â€
In conclusion the Minister said: â€œI would like to thank Mervyn Whyte, the huge band of volunteers and all the sponsors for their continuing hard work and support in making this international event happen and finally I send my best wishes to all the riders and hope everyone has a safe race.â€