Organisers responded by removing the Shell Hill Bridge section, an iconic part of the original course, with a new link road from University Corner to Ballysally Roundabout being introduced for 1980.That brought the circuit length down to 8.9 miles but tragedy continued to dog the event though, Mervyn Robinson succumbing to injuries sustained at Mathers Cross that year which almost resulted in close friend Joey Dunlop quitting the sport.
However, the meeting continued to attract the best Britain had to offer and although only Kawasaki had attended in the 1970s the Honda and Suzuki factory teams turned up in the 1980s, although privateers still had their moments with 1980 seeing a titanic Superbike race go the way of newcomer Keith Huewen by the width of the tyre after a race-long battle with fellow 750ccyamaha rider John Newbold.
The 1980s and 90s saw numerous short circuit racers, like Huewen, sample road racing for the first time. In spite of it being a public road race with unbelievable speeds being attained along the country roads, its relatively short length and layout meant it was more straightforward to learn and riders could be on the pace almost immediately without having to do the much recognised three-year ‘apprenticeship’ of thett. British Championship teams also found the logistics to be more in their favour.
Huewen, Niall Mackenzie, Graham Wood, Andy Watts and Kevin Mitchell all hit great heights, especially Wood, around the ‘Triangle’ in the 1980s, even though they rarely raced on any other road circuit.
Future world 500cc champion Wayne Gardner also competed in 1982, taking fifth in the opening Superbike race before Honda Britain pulled out of the rest of the meeting after a tragic crash involving Newbold which happened just yards from where Herron had crashed three years earlier.
The two crashes prompted organisers to make a change to the course and a chicane was introduced the following year, just before the approach to the Juniper Hill corner. Now a fully-fledged member of the works Honda team, Dunlop took two victories that year with Wood taking the first of his two Superbike victories as well.
Riding the Dtr/fowler Yamahas, the Scunthorpe rider had taken a podium in his debut year in 1982 and in the 10 races that he competed in from then until 1985, he chalked up a superb record – two wins, two seconds, three thirds and two fourths, only a retirement in the 1985 feature NW200 Superbike race blotting his otherwise exemplary copybook.
Watts was another to enjoy good times around thetriangle, taking two wins and two second place finishes between 1984 and 1986, whilst Mackenzie was on the podium in both 1984 and 85.
Roger Marshall finally claimed his first NW200 victory in 1985, but by 1988 Dunlop led the wins table with a total of 13. He had to play second fiddle that year to Steve Cull who took a hat-trick of wins, including both Superbike races. The second of those was nothing short of miraculous as Cull slid off atyork Corner on the final lap only to reel in and overhaul Dunlop in the closing stages.
1988 also saw a second chicane added, this time at the start/finish in order to reduce speeds further around Primrose Hill as well as allowing safer access to the pitlane.