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Johnny still in the fast lane

By Richard Petrie

Johnny McKay and John McGuinness
Johnny McKay (left) pictured with Honda rider John McGuinness

As the North West 200 celebrates its 80th anniversary, it is safe to assume that no-one has seen more of the famous races than 92-year-old Johnny McKay.

Johnny, who lives in Lisnagunagh, between Bushmills and Ballintoy, on the north coast of Northern Ireland, was at the first event in 1929 - and has missed only one year since then.

He first spectated at Millbank Corner at the age of 12 and has been bitten by the motorcycling bug ever since.

"We heard that the race was being held and my mother and I decided to go along," Johnny told the BBC Sport website.

"We didn't know exactly where the races were being run so we just tried to follow the noise and see where we ended up.

"We had only one bicycle between us so one of us had to ride the bike at any given time and the other had to walk."

In later years, Johnny hitched a ride to the races on the back of his cousin's motorbike, starting off in the early morning to get a good vantage point.

"Even in those days the event was a great spectacle and the Rudge machines were my favourite, and then in later years the Norton.

"I even had a Norton ready to race one year myself but my wife wouldn't allow it so that was the end of that.

"I've moved about the course to watch in different places and apart from the Second World War, the only year I have missed is 1973.

"I was in hospital that year after being involved in a motor accident but they wheeled my bed into the corridor of the hospital in Ballymena and put the radio on so that I could listen to the races.

The sound of the bikes is very different now but the speeds are fantastic

Johnny McKay

"I have never been keen on watching at the pits though - I prefer to be out on the course, at a bend or on an embankment where there are fewer people."

Inevitably, Johnny observes that much has changed over the years at the North West.

"It used to be that the leader, or at least two or three riders, would be way out on his own, and the really close racing would take place further back in the field where the bikes were more bunched up.

"In those days the 'works' machines were so much faster than the rest but now you can get up to seven or eight bikes together, all dicing for the lead.

"The sound of the bikes is very different now but the speeds are fantastic."

Johnny names local hero Dick Creith as one of his favourite riders and still has photographs of him riding Joe Ryan's Norton.

"Like just about everyone, Joey Dunlop was another favourite of mine - he was really great," he added.

Another highlight for the lifelong fan came when he was taken round the course in one of the official cars between races.

"It was a great experience, and I also received a ticket for the grandstand from the sponsors, which was kind of them."



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see also
Seeley and Rutter handed NW rides
29 Apr 09 |  Motorsport
Whyte appointed to BSB role
29 Apr 09 |  Motorsport
Allerton considering NW200 debut
12 Feb 09 |  Motorsport
Dunlop can ride Norton at NW200
19 Jan 09 |  MotoGP
BBC NI secures NW 200 until 2014
03 Mar 09 |  MotoGP
Dunlop award for top NW200 rider
08 Jan 09 |  Motorsport
Rutter to ride North West Yamaha
16 Dec 08 |  Motorsport
Date is confirmed for 2009 NW 200
10 Nov 08 |  MotoGP


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