Ulster GP could regain title as fastest road race: Hicky
A number of road racing's biggest stars gathered at Lagan Valley Island, Lisburn yesterday to launch the MCE Insurance Ulster Grand Prix, which is now in its 96th year.
Hot on the heels of a blistering Isle of Man TT, Dean Harrison - the former fastest road racer in the world - joined Peter Hickman - who took the latter's crown - local stars Michael Dunlop, Lee Johnston and Adam McLean, and visiting riders Conor Cummins, Joey Thompson, Dominic Herbertson and Cookstown BE's rising star Davey Todd as the countdown to the UGP ramped up.
This year's event runs from August 5-11 with significant changes to the Thursday afternoon of Bike Week, with the Dundrod 150 national road races being replaced by an extended running order for the Ulster Grand Prix.
Harrison set the world's fastest road race speed of 134.614mph at Dundrod last year, but Hickman bettered that with his final lap of the Senior TT on the Isle of Man last month, recording 135.452mph on his way to beating Harrison by two seconds.
Hickman, now the world's fastest rider, said: "There's obviously a lot of talk about the Ulster off the back of the TT and I've a bit of grovelling to do to Noel (Johnston, Clerk of the Course) about taking that lap record away, but it is what it is.
"If we get the weather like we had at the TT there's a really good chance we'll be bringing the fastest road race title back to Northern Ireland, as it's such a fast circuit.
"The Smiths Racing BMW has been amazing and while BSB has got off to a slow start, the road racing side of things has been really strong. The track time is invaluable and I'm really happy with what I've got and the people around me and that's what makes a big difference."
Clerk of the Course for the Ulster Grand Prix Noel Johnston, now in his 17th year in the position, said: "It has already been an incredible season for international road racing and what better way to conclude it than at Dundrod.
"We have seen records smashed, incredibly close finishes and I can't wait to see what the 7.401-mile Dundrod Circuit has in store this year.
"Obviously I'm keen to see Peter Hickman and Dean Harrison renew the incredible battles they had during the TT.
"It definitely puts an exciting spin on this year's UGP now that Hicky has made the TT the world's fastest road race. The fan banter has been great but all that aside, the key focus for me is rider safety.
"We now have two days of international road racing - Thursday, August 9 and Saturday, August 11 - with the introduction of a 20-minute warm-up session on the Saturday.
"Ultimately these changes and additions have been made with both safety and practicality in mind and we must keep pushing the bar on both fronts as Bike Week continues to grow."
Johnston concluded: "We could not continue to grow without the support of our title sponsor MCE Insurance, our event partners Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council, Tourism NI and the Ulster Grand Prix Supporters Club, as well as our individual race partners, all of out volunteers and the fans, all of whom make this incredible event possible."