North West 200: Irwin and McCallen react to race being called off for successive second year

NW200 winners Irwin and McCallen reflect on cancellation

Four-time North West 200 Superbike winner Glenn Irwin and BBC Sport NI pundit Phillip McCallen have reacted with disappointment, but not surprise, to the cancellation of the 2021 event.

It was confirmed on Wednesday that the international road race would not take place for the second year in a row.

"I'm gutted but it is a decision I totally understand," said Irwin.

"It's a massive blow to road racing but people would have been coming from all over the world," explained McCallen.

The meeting had been scheduled to take place in May, with provisional dates in August also being considered, but the coronavirus pandemic has put pay to those ambitions.

A provisional date of 8-14 May has been allocated for next year's event.

"It's very, very sad, it's part of the fabric of Northern Ireland sporting life and of life on the north coast," added McCallen, an 11-time winner over the Triangle circuit.

"It's not a surprise though as we are in a very serious situation. Everyone has worked so hard to bring the North West back this year but unfortunately it is beyond anyone's control.

"It's a massive blow to road racing as we were hopeful it may happen this year but it would be devastating if Covid hit the north coast. It's just too dangerous to bring maybe 100,000 people to the North Coast this year."

Carrickfergus rider Irwin has won the last four 'big bike' races to be staged over the course, which takes in the towns of Portstewart, Coleraine and Portrush.

"It's a decision we probably expected even if we had a little bit of hope it might go. A date has been pencilled in for May 2022 so that gives us some encouragement and something to look forward to," said the Honda Racing rider.

Glenn Irwin
Glenn Irwin was the winner of the last Superbike race to be held at the North west in 2019

'The event will recover'

Despite the disappointment over the race being called off in consecutive years, both Irwin and McCallen are optimistic about the future of the event and the sport.

"I'm not concerned for the future of international road racing. Some of the smaller events might struggle and we need to get behind them but I'm sure the North West 200 will survive," commented Irwin.

"The riders are mostly still in their prime, the hunger to race will only get stronger and the hunger of spectators to be trackside rather than watching on the sofa will be stronger."

McCallen concurred: "I believe the event will recover. The riders still want to ride, the owners still want to race and the fans still want to watch.

"Hopefully we come back stronger in 2022, though there will be massive financial support needed to assist in that objective."

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