Lougher aims to go out on high
Half century of podiums is target for Welsh wizard
The World's Fastest Road Race will burst into action today when the first practice sessions ahead of tomorrow's Topaz Dundrod 150 and Saturday's Metzeler Ulster Grand Prix take place around the 7.4 mile Dundrod Circuit that is celebrating 60 years of UGP racing.
For Ian Lougher this will be his swansong around a track he first raced on in 1985 and since then has amassed 49 podium finishes at the UGP and Dundrod 150/Killinchy 150.
The 50-year-old Welshman, now based near Dromara, is the second most successful rider in UGP history with 17 wins – seven behind Joey Dunlop – the first of Lougher's victories coming in 1998.
Having finished runner-up to Philip McCallen in the second 250cc race back in 1991, it would be another seven years before the talented Lougher stood on top of an UGP podium, winning the 250cc race on a Honda.
With TAS Suzuki, Lougher won seven Ulsters between 2001 and 2003 including hat tricks in the 2002 UGP and Dundrod 150.
Riding under the DMRR Honda banner, he scored another hat trick in 2005.
A loyal supporter of two-stroke racing, Lougher mustered five 125/250cc wins between 2008 and 2011.
Of the Dundrod course, Lougher commented: "It is a joy to ride with all the fast sweeping bends that suit my style."
Lougher, who runs his own ILR Kawasaki team in the British Superstock Championship, decided enough was enough following the death of his friend Yoshinari Matsushita during TT practice earlier this year.
"I had been contemplating hanging up my leathers for a while and when Yoshinari was killed that was the deciding factor," he explained.
Lougher took second position behind Michael Dunlop in the opening Superstock race at the Ulster last year, clocking a lap at over 130mph.
Who would bet against the evergreen multi road race winner from making it podium number 50 at the Ulster on this his final appearance?
What a reception Lougher will receive from an appreciative Dundrod crowd irrespective of where he finishes on Saturday, as he brings the curtain down on a distinguished and respected career.
Such is his special relationship with the Dundrod Circuit that the flat-out Budore section of the track was renamed Lougher's in 2009.
He said: "I have enjoyed every minute of my time racing here and at no stage did I ever think I would win so many races when I lined up at Dundrod for the first time 28 years ago.
"Yes it will be a sad moment when I take my last chequered flag, but all good things come to a conclusion and I can walk away with my head held high."
Roads close this afternoon and evening for the first practice sessions between 1.30pm and 9.30pm.
Roads close tomorrow at the earlier time of 10.30am for UGP practice and competitive Topaz Dundrod 150 four-race programme.
* BBC Sport NI will be at the Ulster Grand Prix to bring bike fans coverage of one of the top events in the local sporting calendar across TV and radio from Saturday.
BBC1 NI will broadcast two one-hour highlights programmes on Monday and Tuesday.
Presented by Stephen Watson, the programmes will include all the action from around the circuit including stunning on-board footage and the shots from the helicopter camera.
BBC Radio Ulster will have all the action live throughout Saturday.
Sportsound on BBC Radio Ulster MW will have live coverage from 10.30am until 1.05pm when coverage becomes available on Radio Ulster FM until 6.00pm.
Michael McNamee presents all the day's race action plus extensive build-up and plenty of post-race reaction, featuring Larry Carter, Adrian Coates and Richard Petrie.
BBC NI are currently in the first year of a three-year deal which has been agreed with Ulster Grand Prix rights holders and BBC NI's broadcast partners at the North West 200, Greenlight TV.