Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Ulster Grand Prix still one of jewels in Northern Ireland’s sporting crown

The first Ulster Grand Prix was held in 1922 around the 20 mile Clady Circuit with its infamous Seven Mile Straight that stretched the competitor’s machines reliability and endurance to the limit.

Since then the event has suffered many trials and tribulations being the Grand Prix of Europe in 1935, a European Championship round in 1938-39, a World Championship round from their inaugural year 1949 right up until 1971 when thanks to ‘The Troubles’ and growing safety concerns by leading world competitors about racing on public roads, world championship status was withdrawn from the Ulster the event continuing as an international.

Financial viability has always been a dilemma for any of the organisations that have promoted the Ulster over the years and in 1963 the Ulster Grand Prix Supporters Club was formed and has been a backbone of the ‘Prix’ right up until the present day.

Looking around Dundrod, the road may go in the same direction as the first time the event was held on the 7.4mile circuit in 1953, but current organisers, Dundrod and District Motorcycle Club, have made significant safety improvements, around £400,000 worth to be precise, removing hedges, poles etc to make the circuit as safe as is humanly possible.

The Ulster is billed as the ‘Fastest Road Race in the World’ given the current Dundrod lap record of 133.284mph set by Manxman Conor Cummins riding the McAdoo Kawasaki, but the event so nearly sunk without trace in 2008 when torrential rain swept across the province and for the first time all racing was abandoned.

Thanks to remarkable efforts by Noel Johnston and the Dundrod Club Ulster Grand Prix Bike Week returned in 2009 with superb racing and outright lap records.

Today given favourable weather conditions leading road racers from around the world will engage in fast, close, spectacular racing on what is arguably the best road racing circuit in the world.

Today’s Race Programme is as follows — Roads Close 9.30am – first race Lisburn City Council Superstock over 7-laps at 10.30am followed by; Strong Construction Supersport Race One over 7-laps, Rea Estates 250cc and Maxwell Freight Supertwins races ran concurrently over 6-laps, Stoneyford Concrete/Peoples Superbike Race over 7-laps, Around A Pound Supersport Race Two over 6-laps, and finally www.visitlisburn.com Superbike Race over 7-laps with the roads opening no later than 8.30pm.

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