The countdown to the 2018 MCE Insurance Ulster Grand Prix has begun, as some of the biggest stars in real road racing have gathered once again at Lagan Valley Island, Lisburn to launch the 96th year of Ireland’s oldest road race.
Some of Northern Ireland’s top talent including Lee Johnston and Adam McClean formed part of an all-star line up at the event, along with Peter Hickman, Dean Harrison, Conor Cummins, Dominic Herbertson, Davey Todd and Joey Thompson.
This year’s event, which runs from the 5th-11th August will see significant changes to the practice and racing schedule with the Dundrod 150 national road races, which traditionally ran on the Thursday of Bike Week, now replaced with an extended running order for the international MCE Ulster Grand Prix.
Noel Johnston, Clerk of the Course at the MCE Ulster Grand Prix said: “It has already been an incredible season for international road racing and what better way to conclude it than at Dundrod. We’ve seen records smashed and incredibly close finishes and I cannot wait to see what the 7.4011 circuit has in store.
“Obviously I’m keen to see Peter Hickman and Dean Harrison in action after their incredible battle at the TT. It definitely puts an exciting spin on this year’s event now that Hicky has made the TT the World’s Fastest Road Race! The fan banter has been great but, all of that aside, the key focus for me is rider safety.
“We now have two days of international road racing on Thursday 9th and Saturday 11th August, with the introduction of a 20 minute warm up session on the Saturday. Ultimately these changes and additions have been made with both safety and practicality in mind and we must keep pushing the bar on both fronts as Bike Week continues to grow.”
Alderman Paul Porter, Chairman of the Leisure and Community Development Committee at Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council said: “On behalf of the Council I would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank all the riders, teams and visitors for being part of the 2018 MCE Insurance UGP, whether it be their first time or they are returning to the world’s fastest road race. This prominent event in the road racing calendar attracts thousands to the Lisburn and Castlereagh area and I hope that each and every one of them enjoys the sights and facilities the area has to offer.
“The Council is delighted to be a sponsor of the UGP and show its support for this international event. I congratulate the Dundrod and District Motorcycle Club for its continuous improvements to the event facilities and safety measures and attracting more visitors each year. To hear direct from the riders what the race means to them provides us with a great understanding of the importance of the event. Not only do the riders get so much from it, but the spectators who support the race return each year for a thrilling experience.
“The entire event is well organised by the Club and receives great support from all the sponsors including title sponsor MCE Insurance alongside people in the local area who volunteer to ensure the event is a success. I would like to extend my thanks to everyone who contributes to the Ulster Grand Prix; Dundrod remains firmly on the map as the village that is home to Ireland’s oldest and indeed most popular road race.”
Speaking at the event, fan favourite and the World’s Fastest Rider Peter Hickman said: “There’s obviously a lot of talk about the Ulster off the back of the TT, and I’ve had to do a bit of groveling to Noel about taking the lap record, but it is what it is. If we get weather like we did at the TT there’s a really good chance we’ll be bringing it back to Northern Ireland as it’s such a fast circuit.
“I’m really looking forward to Dundrod. The Smiths Racing BMW has been amazing and while BSB has got off to a slightly slower start, the road racing side of things has been really strong. The track time has been invaluable though and I’m really happy with what I’ve got and the people around me, and that’s what makes a big difference.
Noel concluded: “We couldn’t continue to grow without the support of our title sponsor, MCE Insurance; our event partners, Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council, Tourism NI and the Ulster Grand Prix Supporters Club, as well as our individual race partners, volunteers and fans, all of whom make this truly incredible event possible.”
Bike Week runs from the 5th – 11th August 2018 and wristbands can be purchased via www.ulstergrandprix.net.