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Coronavirus: North West 200 to seek guidance on Race Week

 

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Long service: Noel Johnston has left his role at the Ulster GP

Long service: Noel Johnston has left his role at the Ulster GP

Long service: Noel Johnston has left his role at the Ulster GP

Organisers of the fonaCAB and Nicholl Oils North West 200 have postponed the Meet the Stars of the Race event scheduled for Wednesday in the Lodge Hotel, Coleraine in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

The organisers will attend a special briefing with public health officials, including the Chief Medical Officer, on Monday to seek further advice and information ahead of the North West 200 Race Week on May 10 to 16.

There are no plans to cancel Race Week at this time.

Hopefully following Monday's meeting further information will be issued in terms of re-scheduling the Meet the Stars event.

The question has to be asked - after the postponement of MotoGP and World Superbike as well as many of our local sporting events, will we see the North West 200, TT, BSB, Ulster Superbike Championship and Motocross events postponed or cancelled?

In 2001 the foot-and-mouth outbreak meant no road racing took place until August.

In another statement on the ongoing saga of the Ulster Grand Prix, Noel Johnston stated: "Further to the recent Dundrod and District Club AGM, I have decided to part ways with the club and resign my position as Clerk of the Course at the UGP with immediate effect.

"It is not without regret and sadness I announce this decision and the Ulster Grand Prix has been a huge part of my life, having volunteered in the role of Clerk of the Course for 18 years.

"It's no secret that it has been a blow for me to see the event in jeopardy and I still dearly hope the historic road race that so many of us love can be safeguarded long into the future.

"I do believe that if the right management, governance and support were in place it is achievable to get the Ulster back on track and I would not rule out any further involvement if that were the case," added Johnston.

He thanked all the riders, teams, suppliers, sponsors and partners with whom he worked over the years and said: "It could be a difficult job, but when everything came together to produce world-class racing and everyone got home safe there was no better job in the world."

So where does that leave the UGP at this moment in time? I'm afraid not in a great place - no money, to my knowledge, has been forthcoming from any source, and as things stand with coronavirus putting a major strain on the NHS and beyond, who could justify money being spent to bail out a failed road race in debt to the tune of £300,000?

The road closing order is just waiting to be snapped up by the four-wheel organisations if or, as seems more and more likely, when the Ulster is called off.

The UGP has run since 1922, firstly on the Clady Circuit and then Dundrod, arguably the best of the natural road race circuits, since 1953 and it would be a shame if it is lost.

The Motorcycle Union of Ireland (Ulster Centre) have been remarkably silent on this issue - surely they should have taken a front-line stance on saving part of their road racing heritage.

Belfast Telegraph