RealClassic Reading: The NW200 Road and Race

The North West 200 is one of those street-circuit road races which tests both the metal of the machines and the mettle of their pilots. It’s one of the fastest road-based courses on the racing calendar, where bikes average 120mph and can exceed 200mph in places. It’s one of Northern Ireland’s largest sporting events – and in 2019 celebrated its 90th anniversary. And a special book was published to mark that milestone…

Three famous faces compete in the 1958 event. Feel free to name the this trio of top riders…

What an outstanding book this is! It was a real labour of love; well done to author Ian Foster. This hard-backed book is A4 in size and is nearly 500 pages long, with hundreds of photographs. It covers the 90 year history of the North West 200 races. Best of all it is a 2-in-1 book: once you have read the ‘race book’ you then turn it over and read the ‘road book’!

The story starts with a chapter covering the 1900s to 1919, the original racing and reliability trials. In 1904 in Northern Ireland a road race covered a distance of 200 miles, carefully presented as a ‘reliability trial’. Later came the Irish End to End Run. Muriel Hind, from London, was the first lady competitor in an Irish road race and she completed this race in 1912.

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Each subsequent chapter covers a 10 year span. The ‘200’ refers to the 200 hundred mile length of the earlier races. The first NW200 took place on Saturday 20th April 1929.

As you would expect there are loads of famous riders in the photographs, and I also liked the period adverts and race programmes. Three photos that I particularly liked are one of Joe Craig and Stanley Woods shaking hands at the start of the Ulster Grand Prix in 1926. Then there’s one taken thirty years later of Sammy Miller on a NSU 250 waiting to start a race – and again of Sammy on the same bike at his museum in 2019. There is so much history on these pages.

The racing section of the book is the larger of the two and runs to 400 pages, however the road section is very much a trip down memory lane. The photos in this section date from 1904 to 1985 and include a photo of the author’s ancestors.

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I feel that it is excellent value at £36; in Northern Ireland some local businesses stock it or it can be posted. Ian may do a follow up book for the 100th Anniversary in 2029 if there is enough interest. All the proceeds go to help raise funds for their annual expenses and donations to their chosen charities.

RC Reviewer: Roy Workman

NW200: Road and Race by Ian Foster is available for £36 plus delivery from the NW200 website, or see the Facebook group for more info

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