By Kyle White Belfast Newsletter
The Ulster Grand Prix is facing a “major financial crisis” which has placed the future of the historic road race in serious jeopardy, it has been revealed.
Robert Graham, Chairman of Dundrod and District Motorcycle Club, said the event was in imminent danger of “disappearing from the road racing calendar”.
Mr. Graham said the race organisers have met with Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP and members of Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council in an effort to rescue the prestigious race.
“It is clear though, that in the absence of significant financial support, the Ulster Grand Prix is in real and imminent danger of disappearing from the road racing calendar – an outcome that would be a major blow for motorcycle sport in Northern Ireland.”
A poor weather forecast for the main Saturday race day at the 97th UGP in August had a detrimental effect on crowd numbers at Dundrod, resulting in one of the lowest turnouts in recent memory.
England’s Peter Hickman lit up the event with a sensational performance in the opening Superbike race during race week, re-establishing the 7.4-mile course as the world’s fastest road race once more following a blistering 136.415mph lap record.
The Smiths Racing rider also went through the card, making history with seven wins from seven starts and equalling Ulster road racing legend Phillip McCallen’s 1996 record of five UGP victories in a day.
On hearing the news, Hickman said: “That is a real shame.”
“It is a great event that has been unlucky with the weather recently but all the races were actually run on Saturday despite the forecast.
“I would be devastated not to have the chance to ride the Dundrod circuit again,” added the 32-year-old.
“I really hope the organisers can get things sorted for 2020. An event of the stature of the Ulster Grand Prix should not be allowed to disappear.”
It was a spectacular feat, but there are now real doubts over whether or not Hickman and fellow road racing stars such as Northern Ireland’s Michael Dunlop and Lee Johnston will have the opportunity to compete at Dundrod in 2020.
A huge loss in admission revenue this year, compounded by “existing liabilities”, means the Dundrod and District Motorcycle Club has been left financially crippled.
A statement issued by the organisers said officials had been trying to manage the situation over the past few months, adding that a “critical juncture” had now been reached.
Professional advice has been sought and a decision on whether or not the race will go ahead next summer is due in the next few weeks.
The statement said: “Professional advice has been sought and an urgent review is being carried out in respect of the viability of the event for 2020, together with the options available for dealing with the existing financial liabilities.
“Race organisers will consider the outcome of this review and a decision will be taken in the coming weeks as to the future of the Club and the Ulster Grand Prix.”
First held in 1922, the Ulster Grand Prix enjoyed world championship grand prix status from 1949 to 1971.
Meanwhile, it is understood the Enniskillen Road Races will not take place next year after returning to the calendar in 2018.
The Mid Antrim 150 is also absent from the calendar next season. The race was last run in 2016.