A new series aimed at reinvigorating Irish short circuit racing has been launched by the Motorcycle Union of Ireland (UC).
The Ulster Superbike Championship will be staged over ten rounds in Northern Ireland, with an overall prize fund of £50,000 due to be split among the seven promoting clubs and paid out at selected rounds and the end-of-season awards night.
AJ Plumbing Supplies is on board as title sponsors of the championship with additional support provided by Metzeler and Loughview Leisure Group.
The news comes after December’s announcement that Mondello Park had struck a three-year deal with Dunlop tyres to sponsors its Masters Superbike Championship, requiring riders in the Superbike and Supersport classes to run Dunlop rubber.
The Northern Ireland round of the series at Bishopscourt has been dropped from the 2018 calendar, with all Masters events being held exclusively at the County Kildare circuit.
However, John McAllister, Chairman of the MCUI (UC), said he was confident the rebranded Ulster championship would provide a major shot in the arm for short circuit racing this year.
“It is a privilege to be able to provide details of exciting times ahead for the MCUI UC short circuit championship,” he said.
“With rebranding of the title and the fact that we’ve been able to attract much higher level financial and product support for competitors, we can now plan for better future in the sport.
“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank our new title sponsor AJ Plumbing Supplies, who have come on board this year helping us create the end of season prize fund.
“I’d also like to thank two of our partner sponsors. Metzeler, whose generous support will allow us to provide free sets of tyres to various competitors at each round and who will also offer tyre price discounts to competitors who ride on Metzeler tyres,” he added.
“The second partner is Loughview Leisure Group, who will provide a complimentary night’s stay in one of their three hotels (Chimney Corner, Ten Square Belfast and Loughshore Carrickfergus) for two people at each round.
“This will be given to the competitor who breaks or is closest to the class lap record and the Group will also host an end of season championship party in their newly refurbished nightclub at Chimney Corner.”
Ten championship events will take place this season, including seven one-day and three two-day meetings.
The main championship classes feature Superbikes, Supersport, Supertwins, Lightweight, Supersport, Sidecars, Junior Cup and Moto 3. There will also be several support classes running within the championship.
McAllister added: “Short circuits are the breeding ground for the national road races and British Superbike Championship events. Over the past decade alone we produced several British champions, MotoGP competitors and just last year Jonathan Rea was the first person ever to win three World Superbike Championships back to back – what an ambassador for motorcycle racing and Northern Ireland.
“The time is now right to re-launch this series of events and I truly believe that not since the late Davy Wood and the Regal Championship has short circuits had this chance of developing into a prestigious championship, where it belongs.”
Round one will be held at Bishopscourt on Easter Saturday, with the finale taking place at the Sunflower Trophy event at the same circuit in October.