By Kyle White Belfast Newsletter
Ulster road racing legend Phillip McCallen has announced the return of the Classic Bike Festival Ireland at Bishopscourt in August and reaffirmed his commitment to reviving the Ulster Grand Prix in 2023.
The two-day classic meeting will be held at the Co Down circuit from August 6-7 and will feature classic racing for the first time for 250/350 two-stroke machines and Classic Superbikes.
Held for the first time in 2019, the festival proved a hit with fans who turned out in large numbers and McCallen has promised this year’s event will be bigger and better as it returns following cancellations over the past two years due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The 11-time Isle of Man TT winner has also revealed that the Revival Racing Motorcycle Club will step up its efforts to run the Ulster Grand Prix in 2023 after vital funding required to stage the fastest road race in the world at Dundrod fell through last month.
A financial package of £800,000, which would have been the biggest cash injection ever for motorcycling in Northern Ireland, was sought to save the debt-hit UGP and preserve the future of the North West 200, but the money was turned down by Tourism NI last month after being signed off by the Department of Finance and Department for the Economy.
McCallen said: “We’re still working hard towards the Ulster Grand Prix for next year – we haven’t given up.
“We intend to have many meetings between now and next year with government, Tourism NI and all parties concerned.
“Obviously we were very disappointed with how things turned out this year after the funding was turned down by TNI, but over this past few weeks we’ve decided to regroup and go back and we’re still hopeful of running the event in 2023.
“We’ve learned a lot and I think we’re better placed now going forward because we have more knowhow.
“We just couldn’t turn our backs on it because if we did, it would take new people another full year to try and get up to date with what is required to try and bring the event back. It’s a serious situation because if these big events don’t get proper financial backing, then they’ll be gone.”
Unveiling his plans for the return of the classic festival at Bishopscourt this summer, McCallen said the event will be ‘bigger and better’ than ever.
“Already, we have a number of top classic racing teams interested and we hope to be in a position to make some further announcements in the near future,” he said.
“This year, we plan to run classic races for 250/350 two-stroke machines and a Classic Superbike race.
“We’ve been talking to teams in the UK and people here at home who run good 250/350 machines to bring them together at Bishopscourt.
“The aim is to have a race for each class on both Saturday and Sunday, and we’re hoping to announce a third race category in a few weeks’ time,” McCallen added.
“We’ll have our parade laps once again for historic racing machines to complement the racing plus we’ll have displays of some of the finest classic bikes in the UK.
“We’re indebted to those people who put so much time and effort into bringing these bikes along, and if anyone would like to display their machines, then please get in touch with the team.
“It’s going to be bigger and better and we’re delighted to be able to run the event again after two years away because of the pandemic.”