ONE of the highlights of the local sporting was reduced to a damp squib on Saturday.
Terrible weather conditions, an oil spillage and a security alert all combined to leave race organisers with no other option than to pull the pull on the event at 5.20pm.
Alastair Seeley lived up to his pre-race billing as many people’s favourite to sweep the boards by being crowned the day’s only winner.
Seeley edged out Cameron Donald in the Supersport 600 race.
And the Carrickfergus man was leading in the day’s first Superbike race before an oil spill put paid to it after only one lap.
Ryan Farquhar’s KMR Kawasaki’s engine had blown up spewing oil on the track the whole way from the Railway Bridge at Dhu Varren through to Juniper Hill chicane.
“We worked and worked at it, but it was a major spill,” said race director Mervyn Whyte.
“The guys did a brilliant job and we thought we had cleared it, but the riders had concerns after two warm up laps and we were not prepared to take the risk.
“Obviously this is extremely disappointing for everyone involved, riders, spectators, sponsors and the hundreds of volunteers, who have worked tirelessly towards this day.
“Combined with the delays caused by a hoax security alert, the inclement weather and the oil spillage it was a challenging day.
“I would like to thank everyone who has contributed to this year’s Relentless International North West 200 for their patience and support, and we look forward to running a full event next year.”
Relentless Suzuki by TAS team boss Philip Neill sympathised with Mervyn Whyte and the organisers afterwards.
“Today has been a disaster for everybody - organisers, sponsors, riders and the spectators, who had to put up with so much.
“All the planning and hard work that goes into such a high profile event goes right out the window with everything that’s happened today.
“I do not envy Mervyn Whyte and his team with what they had to put up with today.”
The day’s only winner, Alastair Seeley agreed with his team boss.
“It has been a really frustrating day all round,” he said.
“The oil spill made the track treacherous and I had a big slide on the sighting lap, and it was probably the right decision to abandon the meeting.
“The spray meant you couldn’t see a lot and the idea was to try and stay out of trouble, but the oil was right on my braking line for Juniper.
“I’ll be able to say I went through the day undefeated, but not in the way I wanted to.
“I the first race I dropped to fourth early on, but fought back to take the lead hoping to open up a bit of a gap.
“I was really surprised to see Cameron Donald with me.
“We had a really good race and I was just a bit better on the brakes than him.”
Helicopter coverage showed Seeley’s team-mate, Guy Martin, having slides through the section on both of the sighting laps and he went out in the course car with technical director Mervyn Whyte to inspect and highlight the problem areas.
Martin though was worried the conditions would lead to a major incident despite the organisers‘ best efforts.
“It was better than it was after the clean up and if you’re riding on your own it wouldn’t be a problem but it wouldn’t take much for you to drift off line and go down and when you’re racing in a pack, it could be carnage.
“He added: “There’s spectators watching near there as well and you could have a bike cartwheel into them so there’s lots to consider. The rain’s not a problem and I’d have raced if it wasn’t for the oil but it’s just too much of a job to clear up.”
Fellow rider James Hillier added: “The problem is that you can’t see where the oil is even though the marshals and spectators are waving to slow you down.
“Then there’s the spray and if one person was to go down, three or four would follow.
“I’d be happy to practice under the conditions but not race; I’d prefer to come back next year.”