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What now for Ulster GP as £300k debt spells end of road for organisers?

 

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Peter Hickman

Peter Hickman

Peter Hickman

With outstanding debts in the region of £300,000, and few assets, it would appear that Dundrod and District Motorcycle Club - organisers of the Ulster Grand Prix - seem set to be forced into liquidation, a final nail in the coffin for the famous old event in its present form.

A winding-up petition from the Department of Finance, Land and Property Services was listed at Belfast High Court for April 23 but will be adjourned until a later date when the coronavirus pandemic restrictions are relaxed.

The Dundrod Club had announced just last month that the UGP had been cancelled for 2020, with the crisis and an absence of funding being cited as reasons despite many meetings with MLAs, local councillors and potential financial backers.

This position was reached after a number of years of weather-related disruptions, culminating last August when, following a bad weather forecast, the spectator attendance at the course was poor, leaving the Dundrod Club with a large financial black hole in its finances.

This current winding-up petition has been predicted for many months and comes as no surprise to many in the sport.

It could, however, open the door for any other potential promoter to step in and run the historic road race around the 7.4-mile circuit set in the hills above Belfast, where the Ulster Grand Prix has been run since 1953.

Fans and riders will certainly be hoping that the event can return to the calendar with many competitors putting the track at the top of their favourite circuit list. Or are we to be left with just memories of racing around Dundrod?

The event provided World Championship moments when Dick Creith won the 500cc race in 1965 and Ray McCullough clinched a very wet 250cc race in 1971, beating a field that included Phil Read and Jarno Saarinen. Then came the record career of Joey Dunlop at Dundrod, 24 UGP wins and 24 Killinchy 150 wins.

Phillip McCallen posted five UGP victories in a day in 1996 and 10 years later Guy Martin won four races in a day, equalled by Ian Hutchinson in 2016. Last August, Peter Hickman won all seven races he started and hoisted the outright lap record to an amazing 136.415mph - a long way from the 91.74mph set by both Geoff Duke (500cc Gilera) and Ken Kavanagh (500cc Norton) in 1953.

As things stand, without substantial new money, it could well be the end of an era.

Belfast Telegraph