Belfast Telegraph

To see UGP in danger is gutting: chief Johnston

Sad time: Noel Johnston is praying the Ulster Grand Prix can be saved
Sad time: Noel Johnston is praying the Ulster Grand Prix can be saved

By Roy Harris

Noel Johnston, Clerk of the Course of the Ulster Grand Prix for the last 18 years, has issued a statement regarding the uncertain future of the event after last week's revelations that the promoting Dundrod and District Club are facing debts of upwards of £250,000.

The statement read: "To say that I'm gutted that the future of the Ulster Grand Prix is in danger would be an understatement.

"I resigned as a director of the Dundrod and District Motorcycle Club over eight years ago to concentrate on my role of Clerk of the Course, which meant I had no further control or input on financial decisions.

"It is a shock to realise how bad the event's finances had become and to date I have still not been made fully aware of the exact figure owed to creditors.

"Every year I was given and adhered to a relatively modest budget to help riders right across the board come to the event and to my knowledge they have not been paid in full for 2019.

"These men and women put on a tremendous show in tricky conditions and I am dismayed that they have been put in this position, likewise with any businesses who haven't received payment for the work they have done. I'd also like to clarify that I have never received any salary for my role as Clerk of the Course, only minimal expenses.

"The Ulster has been a huge part of my life; I have volunteered in the role for 18 years and am as passionate about it today as I have ever been. To see such an event with such a rich heritage and history jeopardised is heartbreaking and my only hope is that it doesn't disappear from the road racing calendar."

Club officials have stated that they only have a two to three-week window to save the club and also the Ulster Grand Prix.

The 2019 UGP saw Smiths BMW and Trooper Beer rider Peter Hickman blast the record books as the Dundrod course reclaimed its crown as fastest road race in the world with a lap of 136.415mph.

A severe weather forecast for the Saturday saw the majority of fans remain at home, resulting in perhaps the smallest crowd the event ever witnessed. The huge loss of income coupled with existing liabilities have resulted in the major financial crisis.

Meanwhile, the final road race of the international season takes place around the Armco-lined streets of Macau.

First practice for the 53rd Suncity Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix is on Thursday with the 12-lap race set for Saturday.

Former winners include Michael Rutter, John McGuinness, Ian Hutchinson and Hickman.

Rutter has won the event, first ran in 1967, a record eight times while the Irish challengers this year are Lee Johnston, Paul Jordan, Michael Sweeney, Brian McCormack, Derek Sheils and Davy Morgan.

Past Irish winners include Robert Dunlop (1989), Phillip McCallen (1996) and Jeremy McWilliams, who won the first leg of the race in 1993 when it was a two-leg affair.

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