The 2022 Ulster Grand Prix, due to have taken place from August 16-20, has been cancelled.
Plans to revive the debt-hit Ulster Grand Prix in 2022 have fallen through in a major setback for Irish road racing with confirmation that the iconic Dundrod meeting has been cancelled.
Government funding of £800,000 had been signed off to bring the historic Dundrod event and the North West 200 under one organisational umbrella, but the financial rescue package has not been supported by Tourism NI.
The decision means the Ulster Grand Prix – scheduled to have taken place from August 16-20 – cannot go ahead.
A statement issued by the directors of the Revival MCC – former NW200 Event Director Mervyn Whyte, road racing great Phillip McCallen and Robin Titterington – said::-
“It is with much regret that we must announce the Revival Racing MCC is not in a position to stage the Ulster Grand Prix in 2022.
“We would like to place on record our sincere thanks to the Department of Economy and Department of Finance who both fully endorsed our proposal which would have delivered the biggest investment in motorcycling ever seen in Northern Ireland.
“Unfortunately, Tourism NI has informed us it will not support the level of funding agreed.
“The funding proposal was a joint venture between the UGP and NW200 to provide support to both international events which showcase Northern Ireland around the world.
“Revival Racing MCC has spent the last year engaging with TNI and government departments to explore the opportunities to increase the economic benefit of the UGP and NW200 to NI.
“All parties have been involved in in-depth business case appraisals which have confirmed excellent value for money and a huge impact on the economy.”
The statement added that whether or not the Ulster GP would return in the future was ‘unclear’.
“We are aware that the cancellation of the UGP, which is celebrating its centenary year, is not just a huge disappointment for fans but also a major blow to the sport.
“But we are simply unable to stage what is one of Northern Ireland’s oldest and most prestigious sporting events because TNI will not give the green light to funding which two government departments signed off. Whether the ‘Ulster’ will be staged again in the future is unclear.”
On Sunday night, Tourism NI told the News Letter the funding requested was more than six times the amount provided to the NW200 and UGP in 2019.
A statement said:
“Tourism NI has received a request from Revival Racing Ltd seeking funding of £800,000 to stage the North West 200 and Ulster Grand Prix in 2022. This is over six times the funding provided by Tourism NI to stage the events in 2019.
“The Department for the Economy and Department of Finance provided Tourism NI with the necessary approvals in principle to pay out the sum of money requested if Tourism NI was in a position to do so.
“The funding request has now been considered by Tourism NI’s board and it concluded that it could not justify the level of funding requested both on financial and legal grounds. Like all public bodies, Tourism NI is operating in a highly constrained budget environment and is considering requests for support for a range of events across Northern Ireland in 2022.
“Tourism NI has provided Revival Racing with an indicative offer as to what it could expect to receive and what we believe would be sufficient to allow both the North West 200 and Ulster Grand Prix to progress this year.”
The public body said it was ‘disappointed’ to learn that the 2022 Ulster Grand Prix had been cancelled.
The Dundrod showpiece – due to have marked its centenary this year – was last held in 2019. Under the stewardship of the Dundrod and District Motorcycle Club, the event ran into financial trouble and faced debts in the region of £300,0000.
Last year, the club entered into a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) with its creditors, enabling a portion of the debts owed to be paid back over a fixed period of time.
A number of riders, including Peter Hickman – who won a record seven races in 2019 and established Dundrod as the fastest road race in the world with a 136mph lap – plus Northern Ireland’s Lee Johnston, were left out of pocket.
It is understood many of the riders who were owed money from the 2019 meeting were unwilling to return to the event if the same officials were involved in running the race.
As part of a venture to save the Ulster Grand Prix and bolster the future of the North West 200, the Revival Racing Motorcycle Club – led by NW200 chief Whyte and 11-time TT winner McCallen – aimed to secure funding from the Northern Ireland Executive to take over the Ulster GP and bring Irish road racing’s two biggest races under one umbrella.
The longer-term plans also included a proposal to host a round of the British Superbike Championship at Bishopscourt Racing Circuit in Co Down.
However, the much-needed funding package has stumbled at the final hurdle, leaving those who have worked tirelessly for more than a year deflated.
After two barren years for Irish motorcycling, with the majority of road races here cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021, this latest setback has soured the mood at a time of great optimism around the return of a full-scale racing calendar for the first time in three years.
For now, the future of the Ulster Grand Prix – which is steeped in history as a former round of the Grand Prix World Championship – has been plunged back into peril.