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Under-threat Ulster Grand Prix can be saved, despite £300k debts


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Joy and pain: Peter Hickman celebrates his UGP success last year

Joy and pain: Peter Hickman celebrates his UGP success last year

Joy and pain: Peter Hickman celebrates his UGP success last year

It may be too late for this year but the historic Ulster Grand Prix can still be saved in time for its 2022 centenary.

With the event facing crippling debts in the region of £300,000, it seems impossible it will be saved this year with riders still awaiting payment for taking part in last year's race.

For the good of the event and the sport, now is arguably the time for the Dundrod Club to bow out as organisers and pave the way for a new organisation to take up the reins of running the officially recognised world's fastest road race.

It is clear that time is of the essence and it is action that is required.

Fans of road racing want the Ulster Grand Prix to run and the riders want to race around what they describe as the best road circuit in the world, but before this can happen there needs to be assurances that finances will be available to support the event.

The UGP remains a great commodity - one need only look at last year when Peter Hickman was unbeatable, winning seven out of seven races and setting an astonishing new outright lap record of 136.415mph.

One only has to think of the exploits of the Dunlops, Ray McCullough, Brian Reid, John Williams, Tom Herron, Joe Craig, Reg Armstrong, John Surtees, Geoff Duke, Dick Creith and Bob McIntyre to name but a few to realise what a travesty it would be for the event to disappear, but unless funding can be secured, it appears there will be no 2020 Ulster Grand Prix.

Thursday's statement from the Dundrod appeared to confirm that, saying: "Over the past months, race organisers have met with a host of public representatives, including councillors, Westminster MPs, MLAs and other government officials.

The difficulties facing the UGP and other road races in NI have made headlines in recent weeks. If the sport is to survive and flourish, it will require similar financial support from government other sports receive UGP statement

"Representation has also been made to the recently restored NI Assembly and the Department for Communities Minister.

"Whilst there has been a sympathetic hearing to the UGP's plight, the crisis situation remains. Discussion continues but, so far, no financial assistance has been made available as we move into the period when preparations for the 2020 event should have been well under way.

"The difficulties facing the UGP and other road races in NI have made headlines in recent weeks. If the sport is to survive and flourish, it will require similar financial support from government other sports receive.

"Road racing is part of NI's sporting culture and brings major financial benefits to the province and local communities. Only a fraction of the sums provided to other major sporting events would make an enormous difference to events like the Ulster Grand Prix.

"More discussions are planned with government during the weeks ahead as the Dundrod and District Motorcycle Club continue to pursue a solution that will ensure the Ulster Grand Prix reaches its centenary in 2022.

Already in a precarious financial situation, the tipping point came last year as the club statement revealed: "Despite a full programme of superb racing being run throughout 2019 Race Week, a severe weather warning forecast for Saturday's principal race day resulted in perhaps the smallest crowd ever witnessed at Dundrod. The huge loss of income this caused, compounded by existing liabilities, has created a major financial crisis."

The heritage of the Ulster Grand Prix goes back to 1922 and the Clady Circuit that included the 'seven-mile straight'.

Since then it has survived a World War, the Troubles, which forced the last cancellation in 1972, losing Grand Prix status and the World Championship Formula 1 series, the move to the Dundrod Circuit in 1953, depressions and numerous financial crises and a number of promoter changes - indeed, had it not been for the formation of the UGP Supporters' Club in 1963 it maybe wouldn't have even reached this point.

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