The Ulster Grand Prix has been through a difficult period but this year was revered as one of the best days of racing in the sport’s history.
But what of the future? MCN spoke to Noel Johnston, the man who masterminds the event and is the UGP Clerk of the Course.
How is the Ulster Grand Prix funded?
It all relies on people paying £15 admission and £5 for the programme. But the problem is that we get around 20,000 people to the event but we’ve 13 approaches into the circuit and the most that’s ever paid is 11,000.
We’ve tightened the entry to the course up this year so hopefully more people will pay. It costs us £340,000 to put the event on.
We have to pay £25,000 insurance and £5000 cancellation insurance on top of that.
Winter rumours suggested the event wasn’t going to happen. What changed?
In 2008 the meeting was washed out but people were very understanding and allowed us time to pay our bills. But it meant that last year we had double to pay.
We were promised £50,000 by the government for this year to help with resurfacing work so we went ahead and got it done but then the funding was withdrawn.
Luckily the local council helped us out but we really need a few good years now to boost the club funds again (to secure the event’s future).
Why was John McGuinness not at the Ulster GP this year?
John’s was not here because he had no bikes. He came last year with Clive Padgett on a stocker and 600 but to make that possible I had to make lots of calls.
I spoke to John this year and said we’d meet his demands but he would have to arrange his own bikes. Money was never even mentioned. John should be at this event and we hope he will be here next year.
Why were superstock bikes allowed to run with slicks, and aftermarket braking systems in qualifying?
Everyone knows the rules and I can promise you the bikes were checked after the races.
I agree we need to look at the issue of riders using one bike for two classes when we run a combined practice session and already I’m thinking next year if we run any combined superbike/superstock sessions next year they will be untimed.
What’s been you impression of this year’s newcomers?
I’d been chasing Dan Kneen to come here for a couple of years. Dave Johnson is new to the road racing scene and after he impressed at the TT I worked hard to get him here and fixed him up with a ride on Paul Shoesmith’s bikes.
These guys are our future. Stuart Easton wanted to come last year. He went to the North West this year but Shaun Muir didn’t have the budget to bring the Swan Honda team here. Next year I think he’ll do all three internationals!
Obviously there are others we’d like to bring but we’re restricted by our budget. But we’re chuffed with the newcomers this year.
What’s the future of the Ulster GP?
We have the circuit as safe as any road course can be – though we’ll continue to monitor it. I just want to take the event to the next level and improve the show and the facilities around the course.
I want to make everything as user friendly as possible. The location works against us (unlike the NW200 which is located on the Giants Causeway coastline, Dundrod is rural area, albeit only 20 minutes from Belfast) but talk to the riders and they prefer racing at Dundrod because it’s such a fast, flowing riders’ course. We don’t want to become the NW200.
It’s important we remember our history and our roots so we’ll always try to accommodate all the classes. Look how strong our 125 class is here. And every grid is packed. The National races (in Thursday’s Dundrod 150) are our backbone.
We brought the classics back this year. The last time they ran here was 2004. But we want to build on that for the future. We had the Patons here this year, next year want MVs too!