Northern Ireland

North West 200: Fans travel to NI from around the world

Spectators Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Spectators from around the world have travelled to the North West 200

Motorbike fans and riders from around the globe have descended upon the north coast for the North West 200.

The annual road racing festival is expected to attract 85,000 spectators.

BBC News NI caught up with some of the racegoers who made the long journey to the North West 200, some of whom are planning to stay for good.

"We've now decided, because of this event, to move to Northern Ireland," said Peter Pojer, who is set to relocate from Arizona next month.

Mr Pojer and his wife, Mariko, first attended the North West 200 in 2015 and "fell in love".

"People's passion for motorcycles brings us here," said Mariko, who is looking forward to moving to Northern Ireland.

Image caption BBC NI's Michael Fitzpatrick talks to Michael Ibbotson and Mariko Pojer

The couple are avid fans of the Dunlop family, and wish they could have seen Robert and Joey Dunlop in action.

"They are the best and they really are the nicest people you can meet," said Mr Pojer.

They are hoping more Americans will come to the North West 200 in future.

"We have more friends here than in America," said Mr Pojer.

"Last year there was one more person from Arizona. We met by chance and felt 'what a small world?'"

Image copyright Peter Pojer
Image caption Mariko and Peter Pojer, pictured with former competitor Phillip McCallen, love Northern Ireland

'Most beautiful'

"I think this is the best race and the best event I've ever been to," he added.

"Northern Ireland is the most beautiful place. I wish I could have brought my bike from Arizona to join but no such luck."

The Pojers have also made friends with Michael Ibbotson, from Sunderland, who is staying at a bed and breakfast run by Joey Dunlop's wife Linda during race week.

"They've come all the way from Arizona and I've come all the way from Sunderland. This event attracts people from all over the world - it's great.

"Everybody talks about the people and it's absolutely true. You never see any issues or bother, it's just great fun. I love it. I'll always come back."

Need for speed

"We all love speed and when you see those guys flying around at 200-plus miles an hour, side by side, it's absolutely incredible," said Mr Ibbotson.

"I think we're living the dream when we see these guys. It's an incredible experience."

Image caption Toni Rechberger is one of the oldest competitors at the North West 200

Veteran racer Toni Rechberger has travelled to the North West 200 from Austria.

He first competed in the event in 2008 when Robert Dunlop was killed.

This year he will be one of the oldest competitors, at the age of 58.

"You can never find such a race with so much speed," he said.

"The North West 200 is special because the paddock and the course is directly by the seaside and, in Austria, we have no seaside. It's the best one."

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