Michael Rutter, Mervyn Whyte, Nelson McCausland & Stephen Thompson
This morning I travelled up to North Antrim to Mather's Cross, a bend on the North West 200 circuit. It was an opportunity to see the work being undertaken by DRD Roads Service to improve the bend and make it safer. This work is part of a general road improvement programme but it will also benefit the North West 200 and Mervyn Whyte, the race director, has been advising Roads Service on the changes to be made.
The improvements at Mathers Cross will contribute significantly to improving safety at the NW 200. Every effort must be made to improve the safety of our road races and my own department has set aside £2 million over the next two years to help motorsport improve safety at events.
Motor cycle road racing is extremely popular in Northern Ireland and we have some excellent circuits. The English rider Michael Rutter, who was there this morning, said that the NW 200 is the best road race in the world and he should know for he has won it twelve times.
I also met Mervyn Whyte and the seven strong management team who have come together with him to take the race to a new level. My department has been working with Mervyn, the Coleraine & District Motor Club, Coleraine Borough Council, the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and others, to secure the future of the race and that has now been done.
There is the potential to make Northern Ireland the road-racing capital of the world, with the best circuits and the best races, and that should be our ambition. Not only can we provide excellent racing for the riders and spectators but we can generate considerable income for our tourist industry.