Ulster Grand Prix steps up safety measures
As promised, MCE Ulster Grand Prix Clerk of the Course Noel Johnston has announced important changes to the practice and racing schedule for the 2018 event, which takes place on August 5-11 at Dundrod.
The Dundrod 150 national road races, which traditionally ran on Thursday of Bike Week, will be replaced with an extended running order for the international MCE Ulster Grand Prix.
Thursday, August 9 will now see four road races comprising Supersport, Ultra Lightweight/Lightweight, Supertwins and the first of three Superbike races.
That means the Dundrod 150 Challenge and National races will no longer take place despite being popular with fans.
Seven races will run on Saturday, August 11 in the following order: Superstock, Supersport, Ultra Lightweight/Lightweight, Superbike, Supersport, Supertwins and finally Superbike.
All Superbike, Superstock and Supersport will be open to international licence holders only, with the Ultra Lightweight/Lightweight and Supertwin races open to national and international licence holders.
The Superpole session introduced in 2016 for the top 10 Superbike riders is gone, to be replaced by a 15 minute warm-up for all Supersport, Superstock and Superbike machines.
Practice sessions for all classes will be held as normal on Wednesday August 8 and the morning of Thursday 9 with the first 15 minutes of all practice sessions untimed.
Noel Johnston said: "I've reviewed how the event runs and taken on board many different views over the last couple of years before making any changes.
"Ultimately these decisions have been made with both safety and practicality in mind as Bike Week continues to grow.
"I know there will be riders who are disappointed that the two national races are going, but we see this as the best way to keep progressing the event.
"The untimed practice sessions and the 15 minute warm-up sessions have been included to enhance safety precautions, allowing everyone time to get used to the track and the conditions on that particular day.
"Every year I hold a briefing session for all competitors, and one of the key messages for everyone is that Dundrod is an incredibly fast and technical circuit which must be treated with respect, and I will be looking closely at each entry," Johnston added.
"The number of newcomers will be restricted and it will be mandatory to attend an induction day with us beforehand and be prepared to put in some serious groundwork."
This year's MCE UGP Man of the Meeting Peter Hickman commented: "The Dundrod Circuit is the fastest in the world and the changes are about making sure everyone gives it the respect it deserves."