21 September by Eleanor McGillie
THIS year, Live It Experience It was a tourism partner for the Vauxhall International North West 200. This was a huge honour for us and fantastic to work with such a dedicated man as Mervyn Whyte MBE. We are delighted to hear Mervyn is staying at the helm for the 2018 race. Here’s a story put out by the club this morning:
Coleraine & District Motor Club is delighted to announce that Event Director, Mervyn Whyte MBE has agreed to remain at the helm of the International North West 200.
There had been speculation after this year’s races that Whyte might step down after 17 years in charge of Northern Ireland’s leading road race. The 67 year old will continue as Event Director as planning begins on a succession strategy for the future management of the event after his retirement.
Speaking after the announcement, Mervyn explained he had taken some time to consider his position and talk to those close to him before reaching his decision.
Mr Whyte said: “In the months following this year’s NW200 I have given a lot of thought to whether the time was right to call it a day. Anyone who has an insight into the world of international road racing will appreciate how demanding the all year round demands of organising an event such as the NW200 has become.
“I had been considering the option of retiring, but, after talking things through with my wife Hazel, the rest of my family and my NW200 colleagues, it became clear how big a task the handover to my successor was going to be. I am extremely fortunate to have fantastic support from the NW200 Management Team and the many volunteers of Coleraine & District Motor Club and I simply could not have considered walking away at such a critical time without the necessary steps having been taken to ensure the future success of this magnificent event.”
Whyte paid tribute to the competitors, volunteers, event partners and spectators who all contributed to making the 2017 Vauxhall International North West 200 such a brilliant success.
“We enjoyed a wonderful week of racing at this year’s event, which culminated in the fantastic dice between Glenn Irwin and Alastair Seeley in the feature Superbike race. That race brought the curtain down on a incredible week for everyone involved and went some way to repaying all the support I have received from the fans and my race team over many years.”
Speaking after the announcement, Chairman of Coleraine & District Motor Club, John Bolton paid tribute to the sterling work of Mervyn and his team.
He said: “The event has taken massive steps forward in recent years and that is down to the vision and planning created by Mervyn and the North West 200 team. As a club we are extremely proud of how far the NW200 has developed as an international road race and fully appreciate the importance of the event for the race fans and competitors as well as the Causeway Coast business community.
“The next couple of years will be extremely important for us as our succession plan will enable Mervyn to gradually hand over the reins to his current NW200 colleagues Fergus Mackay (Event Operations Manager) and Gillian Lloyd (Event Co-ordinator).”
Just how successful Whyte and his team have been in promoting the North West 200 and the Causeway Coast as a tourist destination has been highlighted by a recent Economic Impact Survey commissioned by Causeway Coast & Glens Borough Council. The survey report confirms the races produce a huge economic return for Northern Ireland and the North Coast area, generating a £12.3 million input to the local economy.
Over 20 per cent of the 185,000 spectator admissions to North West 200 Race week events are visitors from overseas, booking 69,744 hotel and B&B beds.
The North West continues to attract a huge television audience. In 2017 the BBC broadcast race action to 357,000 viewers UK wide with another 270,000 local people tuning in. 340,000 fans watch the races worldwide via live streaming with 329,000 catching up via iPlayer.
Social media coverage of the races has exploded in recent years with the race’s Facebook page attracting 11 million views over the last 12 months. Race promotion events broadcast live on Facebook, such as the popular Meet the Stars night, are watched by over 200,000 people.
Whyte and his team in the Coleraine and District Motor Club can now look towards a special landmark anniversary for the North Coast event.
“2019 sees the 90th anniversary of the North West 200 and we are currently planning events to celebrate this major date in our calendar,” the NW200 Event Director said.
“In comparison with some of the one off sporting events which are often provided with a great deal of public funding, our races are an annual event that have been taking place for nine decades. Year after year the NW200 brings visitors and generates business for Northern Ireland and the North coast area. This has grown massively over the past ten years as we have created a strong foundation and a legacy for the future that I want to ensure will continue for many years to come.”
Live It Experience It’ is a group of tourism businesses working together to promote our region through water, air and land based activities, food and drink and great places to stay. If you would like to become a member business in of ‘Live It Experience It’ please submit your information through our online form – Sign Up Here. Pitch your business and meet like minded tourism businesses who you could cluster with. #liveitexperienceit