The clerk of the course at the Ulster Grand Prix says it is impossible to rule out the element of risk involved in motorcycle road racing, after crashes resulted in the death of one rider and critical injuries to two others.
Noel Johnston was speaking in the wake of several serious accidents at the Dundrod circuit on Wednesday and Thursday.
Wigan’s Jamie Hodson (35) died following a crash in the Dundrod 150 National race on Thursday. His brother Rob was involved in the same accident but escaped without any serious injuries.
On Wednesday, Steven Lynd from Templepatrick crashed during practice. The 36-year-old is in a critical condition in hospital.
Yesterday, it was confirmed that another rider, Gavin Lupton from Otley in West Yorkshire, was also critical following an incident in the Challenge race on Thursday evening. Racing was abandoned in the wake of the 37-year-old’s crash.
Last night, Mr Johnston said the incidents were under investigation but confirmed racing would go ahead at the event today as planned.
“The various incidents are being investigated and our thoughts are with the riders involved and their families,” he said.
“We can’t say at the moment what caused any of the incidents but we’ve taken all safety precautions that we possibly can.
“Unfortunately accidents do happen, as with all forms of motorsport.”
“Any speed-sports carry a high risk and all sports have it, whether it’s on tracks or the roads. It has happened in BSB and Formula 1, plus other sports like mountaineering, equestrian and even cycling – there’s always a danger there,” Johnston added.
“We know the risks as organisers and the riders are all adults – they know that the throttle works both ways, but it doesn’t make it any easier when it goes wrong.”
Johnston said that extensive risk assessments are carried out around the 7.4-mile Dundrod course each year, with the aim of continually examining the potential for enhancing safety.
“We do risk assessments around every inch of the course every year and especially after there has been an incident: we look at it and examine how we can improve.
“Every incident is investigated thoroughly before any decision is made, but nine times out of ten it boils down to someone carrying too much speed into a corner and running out of road.”
The race chief said he spoke with the family of fatal crash victim Jamie Hodson but stressed that there was never any question that racing would not go ahead today.
“It’s always terrible when you have a serious accident but we are going ahead as planned on Saturday,” he said.
“The family of Jamie Hodson are a sporting family that are involved heavily in motorcycling and after speaking to them, the possibility of the event not going ahead was never in question.”
Roads are due to close this morning at 9.30am.