Some of road racing’s biggest names and brightest young talents gathered in Lisburn this week to officially launch the 2016 MCE Insurance Ulster Grand Prix.
Fresh from the Isle of Man, an all-star lineup including Ian Hutchinson, Peter Hickman, Ivan Lintin, Dean Harrison, Maria Costello and Dan Kneen came together at the Lagan Valley Island to give fans an exciting taste of what’s in store for Bike Week and reflect on their seasons so far.
Joining them on the entry list this August will be Michael Dunlop, William Dunlop, Bruce Anstey and reigning Man of the Meeting Lee Johnston to name just a few, but it’s the fierce rivalry that has emerged between Hutchinson and the younger Dunlop that seems to have caught the attention of road racing fans everywhere.
Their battle at the TT has set the scene for what promises to be another epic duel at Dundrod, which is still officially the World’s Fastest Road Race with a lap record of 133.977mph.
Both men are already multiple winners at the MCE Ulster Grand Prix and both will be hoping to stake their claim for the final international silverware of the season.
Noel Johnston, Clerk of the Course at the MCE Insurance Ulster Grand Prix said: “I think everyone is excited at the thought of another battle between Hutchy and Michael, but the big difference at Dundrod is that it’s a mass start so there are no corrected times, just racing at its absolute closest.
“I don’t think they’ll have it all their own way however, as there are a number of fast riders on the grid who I’m sure will be ready to challenge.
“Dean Harrison is one, as he really seems to have found his form this season with the Silicon Engineering squad, while Peter Hickman could add to his sensational Superbike win from last year.
“Lee Johnston too, after his performance here last year, will be another hoping to extend his winning run at the Ulster.
“He’s always popular with the fans and real character both on and off the track, and then of course there’s Guy Martin.
“We’re hoping that Guy will be back at the Ulster once again this August, and while he might be short on track time this season you could never bet against him at Dundrod, as he’s enjoyed so many great races here before.”
Speaking at the event, Peter Hickman said: “I can’t wait to get to the Ulster, and if the weather is good I can see the lap record going. It’s a special place for me, the scene of my first international road race win and to add another to the tally would be fantastic.”
Ian Hutchinson added: “I had a great TT and am very much hoping to get back on the top step at Dundrod and if the form on the Isle of Man is anything to go by it’s going to be a brilliant event.
“I’m looking forward to the superpole session, it’s going to be interesting. It’ll put the pressure on but it’s great to see something new like that coming to road racing.”
Alongside the stellar line-up on track, the organisers also confirmed another packed schedule of entertainment for the 94th MCE Insurance Ulster Grand Prix and the Plant Lubrication (NI) Dundrod 150 road races.
The Mayor of Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council, Councillor Brian Bloomfield MBE, added: “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 2016 MCE UGP, whether it be their first time or they are once again returning to the world’s fastest road race.
“It is fantastic to have the Ulster Grand Prix within the Council area. This annual event in Dundrod attracts thousands and I hope that each and every one of them enjoys the sights and facilities the area has to offer.”
Councillor Tim Morrow, Chairman of the Council’s Leisure & Community Development Committee, said: “I would like to thank the Dundrod and District Motorcycle Club for its continued promotion of this impressive road race; and I hope the weather is favourable throughout the course of Bike Week.
“In recent months the Club members have been working hard to prepare the circuit and pits area for both riders and visitors with plenty more planned in the run up to the event next month.
“The Council is delighted to be a sponsor of the UGP, to support this international event; and congratulates the Club on its efforts on continually working to improve the facilities, safety measures and increase visitor numbers. It wishes everyone a successful and safe MCE Ulster Grand Prix 2016.”
Noel added: “There’s a brilliant line-up of events in store once again during Bike Week; from quizzes to live music and opportunities to meet the riders, there will be no shortage of entertainment - the legendary atmosphere and ‘craic’ is not to be missed.
“I’d like to thank all of our sponsors for their support, particularly MCE Insurance, our title sponsor, Plant Lubrication NI, the title sponsor of the Dundrod 150 and our event partners Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council, Tourism NI, TBF Thompson – Hitachi, as well as the fantastic support we receive from the UGP Supporters Club.
“Not to mention all of our race sponsors, volunteers and fans. It couldn’t happen without the collaboration of each and every one of you,” he said
Bike Week runs from the 8th - 13th August 2016 and include the Plant Lubrication Dundrod 150 and the MCE Insurance Ulster Grand Prix road races. Tickets are available now on Ticketmaster.