Noel Johnston "shocked" by full extent of Ulster Grand Prix debt crisis

Ulster Grand Prix Clerk of the Course Noel Johnston.
Ulster Grand Prix Clerk of the Course Noel Johnston.
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Ulster Grand Prix Clerk of the Course Noel Johnston says he was “shocked” to learn of the full extent of the Dundrod and District Motorcycle Club’s financial difficulties.

The historic road race is in jeopardy after it was revealed last week that the club is facing insolvency with debts upwards of £250,000.

Peter Hickman won seven races from seven starts at the Ulster Grand Prix in August and set a new record lap in excess of 136mph.

Peter Hickman won seven races from seven starts at the Ulster Grand Prix in August and set a new record lap in excess of 136mph.

Poor crowd numbers in August – blamed on an adverse weather forecast – were compounded by the club’s already significant financial liabilities.

Officials have held talks with Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP and members of Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council in an effort to find a solution to preserve the future of one of Northern Ireland’s leading sporting events.

Johnston said he is still unaware of the exact amount owed to creditors and clarified that he has never received a salary in his role as Clerk of the Course.

He also said it was his understanding that the riders who competed at Dundrod in August had not yet been paid in full.

In a statement issued to the News Letter on Monday, Johnson said: “To say that I am gutted that the future of the Ulster Grand Prix is in danger would be an understatement.

“I resigned as a Director of the Dundrod and District Motorcycle Club over eight years ago to concentrate on my role of Clerk of Course, which meant I had no further control or input on financial decisions.

“It was a shock to realise how bad the event’s finances had become and to date I have still not been made fully aware of the exact figure owed to creditors

“Every year I was given and adhered to a relatively modest budget to help riders right across the board come to the event and to my knowledge they have not been paid in full for 2019,” added Johnston.

“These men and women put on a tremendous show in tricky racing conditions and I am dismayed that they have been put in this position; likewise with any businesses who haven’t received payment for the work they’ve done.

“I’d also like to clarify that I have never received any salary for my role as Clerk of Course, only minimal expenses.”

Johnston said he has been left “heartbroken” by the perilous situation the race now finds itself in.

He added: “The Ulster has been a huge part of my life; I have volunteered in the role for 18 years and am as passionate about it today as I have ever been.

“To see an event with such a rich heritage and history jeopardised is heart-breaking and my only hope is that it doesn’t disappear from the road racing calendar.”

Last week, Ulster Grand Prix record-breaker Peter Hickman – who won seven races from seven starts this year and set a new 136mph lap record – admitted he would be “devastated” if the world’s fastest road race did not go ahead in 2020.

“It is a great event that has been unlucky with the weather recently but all the races were actually run on Saturday despite the forecast,” Hickman said.

“I would be devastated not to have the chance to ride the Dundrod circuit again. I really hope the organisers can get things sorted for 2020. An event of the stature of the Ulster Grand Prix should not be allowed to disappear.”