Irish motorcycling’s flagship meeting will begin with the newly introduced Superbike race on Thursday evening, May 9, followed by the opening Supersport and Superstock races.
Saturday’s main bill will increase to six races, with both Supertwin events scheduled over four laps while the two remaining Superbike races and the second Supersport and Superstock races will be run over six laps.
The race distance for the Thursday Superbike opener has yet to be determined.
NW200 supremo Mervyn Whyte says the overaul has been welcomed by riders and teams and will offer fans even better value for money, while providing an extra boost for the hospitality sector on the North Coast.
He pressed ahead with the plans after consulting with key competitors and teams at last month’s British Superbike round at Thruxton.
“Over the next three or four weeks we plan to announce a number of changes to next year’s North West 200 after spending quite a lot of time talking to teams and riders,” said Whyte.
“We have a number of things under review at the minute and a number of changes are planned as we move forward based on feedback from teams and riders after we spent those couple of days with them at Thruxton.
“One thing that came across loud and clear was a third Superbike race, which we have decided to go ahead with in 2024.
“This gives those riders who only compete in the Superbike class – like Glenn Irwin this year – an extra race and also offers fans the chance to see a Superbike race on the Thursday evening,” he added.
“We believe this will bring in even bigger crowds earlier during race week and encourage visiting fans to stay longer, which will benefit the local economy and in particular the hospitality sector.
“Our dates are now confirmed and that will allow people and local businesses to make their plans for 2024 because we’ve had a massive number of enquiries around the dates.”
Whyte also revealed the first practice sessions could take place on Wednesday, May 8 rather than the traditional Tuesday race week slot due to a British Superbike round being held on Bank Holiday Monday, May 6.
“There will be a BSB round on the Monday of NW200 race week, so we’re reviewing our schedule at the moment as to whether we run on Tuesday and Thursday [for practice and racing] or Wednesday and Thursday,” Whyte said.
“We haven’t finalised yet what we are doing but it’s one of the options that we have under review, although we hope to have that finalised in the next few weeks once we review the Road Closing Order.
“BSB teams would be under a bit of pressure to come over and compete in Tuesday practice but it would be possible, although whether we go down that route or not we have yet to decide.
“Also, a lot of riders coming to the North West don’t do BSB and we’ve a lot of European riders, so we have to take that into consideration. But nothing is finalised.”
In a further change, Superbike practice will be held first on both qualifying days next May rather than as the final session, as in previous years.
“The Superbikes will be out first,” said Whyte.
“Normally Superbike practice has been held last on both days, which means if you run into problems with red flags and stoppages, then your Superbike practice time has been reduced down.
“We tend to have issues on sunny Thursday evenings with strong sun, particularly at Black Hill, so we also plan to run the Superbike race first in the evening race schedule.
“So we’re making those changes to the practice format for 2024, but we still have to look at the number of laps for the Thursday Superbike race and make a decision on that in due course.”