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Ulster Grand Prix: Riders boosted by funding to make the World's fastest road race safer

By Paul Lindsay

Six riders, set to make their debut at this year's MCE Insurance Ulster Grand Prix in August, were afforded the luxury of a special seminar recently, aptly named the 'New Rider Programme', thanks primarily to Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council who funded the project.

The newcomers who attended the special training event came from the four corners of the UK and Ireland: Callum Paterson and Euan Meston were the Scottish representatives, Jay Bellers Smith came from Wales, Irishmen Francis O'Hara and Barry Sheehan were also present, as was local Ulster ace Matt Donaldson.

The training session was led by MCE Ulster Grand Prix Clerk of Course Noel Johnston and MCUI accredited trainers Michael Swann and Stephen Ferguson, both accomplished racers in their own right.

Johnston, who used to sponsor the late great Darran Lindsay - a Dundrod resident himself whose name shall forever be remembered in local racing circles - said: "The Dundrod circuit is technical, it's fast and it can be unforgiving for those who haven't taken the time to learn it before they get here."

Further explaining the seminar, he said: "The idea behind the newcomers' induction was to give these guys an opportunity to familiarise themselves with the 7.4-mile circuit: lapping it several times, scrutinising every corner and getting the benefit of Swanny and Stephen's considerable expertise."

Johnston added: "The principle reason for doing this was based on safety, and I'd like to thank Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council for recognising our desire and for subsequently providing the funding required to bring these young riders over. We hope this will be the first of many events of this kind.

"You've heard us say many times that this is the fastest road race in the world and the commitment to race it shouldn't be taken lightly.

"It needs some respect, and that means learning it like the back of your hand before you line up on the grid and knowing your limits when you take off down the Flying Kilo for the first time.

"The last thing I want to see is a group of newcomers setting off hell for leather without proper consideration to the task at hand.

"I think the guys who took part will come back in August with the right approach, and I wish them all the best of luck," concluded the UGP Clerk of Course.

Councillor Tim Morrow, Chairman of the Council's Leisure & Community Development Committee, said: "Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council has sponsored the 'New Rider Programme' which has been designed to familiarise new competitors with the Ulster Grand Prix circuit. 

"The expectation is that this will help to improve the safety of the event as all riders, new and old, will know the restrictions of the course in terms of speed and taking corners. I hope these new riders enjoyed their familiarisation trip and I look forward to seeing them on the starting grid in August."

The MCE Insurance Ulster Grand Prix runs from August 6 through to UGP Race Day on August 12.

Top names expected are last year's Man of the Meeting Ian Hutchinson of Tyco BMW and MD Racing's Michael Dunlop.

Belfast Telegraph

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