A new pit lane garage complex under construction at the Kirkistown race circuit is visible evidence of a massive £2m investment in Northern Ireland motorsport.
While a number of other sports are reeling from cuts recently announced, the motorsport money — provided by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure under a three-year plan — is being used to upgrade the infrastructure and facilities for both cars and bikes.
Details of the funding and the projects undertaken as part of the 2009-2011 Investment in Motorsport Programme were revealed at a reception in Ballymena by the 2&4 Wheel Motorsport Steering Group, an umbrella organisation which oversees all branches of motorsport in Northern Ireland.
Over £1m has been targeted towards the three permanent race circuits in the province.
Projects range from tarmacing the paddock area for the North West 200 to re-surfacing the Bishopscourt and Nutts Corner circuits; from the pit lane garages at Kirkistown to providing funding for new rescue vehicles for the British Motor Racing Marshals Club and Ballynahinch Motor Club.
Other initiatives include £410,000 for course improvements and safety equipment at Northern Ireland motorcycle road racing venues; £37,000 for timekeeping and radio equipment for the Association of Northern Ireland Car Clubs for use at rallies and sprints; and £175,000 for the Motorcycle Racing Association and its clubs for facility improvement and safety equipment at motocross and supermoto venues.
Alan Drysdale, chairman of the Steering Group, explained: “This major investment by DCAL/Sport NI has enabled 2&4 to make significant upgrades to the facilities used for regulated motorsport and provide better and safer venues for competitors, officials and spectators.
“We deliberately targeted the greater share of our investment to the three permanent circuits at Bishopscourt, Kirkistown and Nutt’s Corner, which are used for a wide range of motorsport activities — venues that are used for multiple events during the year and equipment that can be used at multiple events.
“This approach has allowed us to significantly improve our facilities to a standard that will help us to develop our next generation of top class competitors.”
Sports Minister Nelson McCausland, who has been under fire following the shelving of a number of funding initiatives, said: “In 2009, the Northern Ireland Executive provided up to £2m to help motorsport improve health and safety at venues across Northern Ireland.
“Over recent years my department, through Sport NI, has worked closely with 2&4 to assist it in putting in place measures and arrangements to improve the safety of all concerned.
“Motorsport is part of our rich sporting heritage with a large and growing fan base. Races such as the North West 200 and Ulster Grand Prix have grown into major festival events not only here but on the world stage.”