The 2006 Kennedy International North West 200 kicks off in earnest on Tuesday 9th May with the first of two evenings of practice, Thursday evening sees the second practice and qualifying sessions, with the action packed week of events and attractions culminating in the North West 200 race day on Saturday 13th May.
Traditionally the first of the three "big" pure motorcycle road events on the calendar, the annual International North West 200 is the largest sporting event held in Ireland and regularly attracts crowds in excess of 120,000 people to the North Antrim seaside resort.
Highlights from the 2005 North West 200 will be shown on UTV Northern Ireland throughout practice week, with a two hour special being aired on May 20th and Eurosport broadcasting coverage of the spectacular event on June 20th.
For the 2006 Kennedy International North West 200 both Team Black Horse riders, onboard the striking purple liveried machines, will be challenging in the two Supersport 600cc races on their Honda CBR600RR machines and in the Superstock 1000cc race, riding Honda Fireblades.
In the two feature races of the day, the Superbike events, Mark Buckley will be astride the Team Black Horse Superstock Fireblade, while Ian Lougher will make his 2006 race debut on the Stobart Motorsport Honda Superbike, taking his place in the Paul Bird Motorsport squad as team mate to current BSB Campaigner and NW200 lap record holder Michael Rutter.
Already with a healthy succession of race wins under his belt, eight times North West 200 winner, Ian Lougher is looking strong for all five of his North West 200 classes. Having previously won North West 200 races on all machine capacities with the exception of the Superbike class, Lougher is looking determined to take the Stobart Motorsport Superbike to the top step of the rostrum.
For Team Black Horse team mate Mark Buckley, this will be his third visit to the North West 200 event and he's hoping to improve on his performance of 2005 when he racked up an impressive string of results whilst riding only standard machinery. Despite finding himself caught up in an incident at the Oliver's Mount, Scarborough on May Day, Mark is fit and having put this misfortune behind him, he is keen to make amends.
Ian Lougher: " I really enjoy the North West 200 event, the weather is sometimes a bit of a problem, but it's a fabulous feeling to be on such a huge stage in front of the many thousands of people who come to watch. The circuit itself is very fast, its one of the few circuits where you are actually riding flat out in top gear for such a long time. The North West 200 makes other circuits, like Snetterton, for example, which is widely regarded as a 'fast' circuit, seem slow by comparison. I have put in a great deal of preparation for the forthcoming season and I am feeling relaxed and confident for all five of my starts at this years North West 200.
Mark Buckley: " The North West 200 is usually my biggest meeting of the year, and I am always keen to put on a good show and I enjoy the event immensely. In 2005 I was riding production machinery and when I found myself mixing it with the tuned race bikes, I had to ride hard, but the effort paid off and I had some secure top ten finishes. Having Ian as my team mate and mentor this year is good for me, he has been giving me some top tips, and I hope that listening and acting on his advice should pay dividends for me."