It’s another sad day for road racing, as we learn that the International Ulster GP has been cancelled. No, it’s nothing to do with the pandemic, it’s all about cash. Again.
The Revival Racing Club (the team trying to revive the Ulster GP after it was cancelled and halted indefinitely after the 2019 event) have been trying their best to drum up the funds to pay for an event that, for the last few years of its running, lost a considerable amount of money. The previous organisers, the Dundrod and District Motorcycle Club had run debts of up to £300,000 leaving numerous partners, suppliers, and riders out of pocket (they even owed me a few quid).
To put the event on in 2022, the Revival Racing Club asked Tourism NI for £800,000. That was to help pay for the Ulster GP as well as to contribute to the North West 200.
But whilst the amount was signed off by the Department of Finance and the Department for the Economy, Tourism NI weren’t having any of it. In fact they said…
“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. We are disappointed to hear that Revival Racing has decided not to proceed with the Ulster Grand Prix this year.”
Apparently £800k is more than six times the amount that Tourism NI put towards the North West 200 and Ulster GP last time they were both run in 2019. It does seem like a lot of money doesn’t it?
I think it’s a real shame that one of the most exciting forms of one of the most exciting sports in the world is struggling to be financially viable. Something as impressive to watch as the Ulster GP (and indeed, the NW 200) shouldn’t need handouts from the tourism board. It ought to be able to be financially independent. But at the minute, it’s obviously not.
Profit or loss
I’m not a business person, and I’m certainly not an economist, but motorcycle road racing is something that so many people are so passionate about, it’s hard to believe that there isn’t a way to do it profitably, or at least break-even-ably. Particularly in Northern Ireland. In fact thousands and thousands of people are absolutely mad for road racing all over Ireland.
Maybe road racing needs to be sexier. Maybe it needs to be more ‘commercialised’. Look at MotoGP; every inch of every circuit’s barriers are covered in some branding or another (well nearly every inch). BSB is the same.
I don’t know what the answer is (I’m probably not clever enough to come up with one anyway). But there must be one. There must be either a way of coming up with the cash to run these events, or a way to run them in a more cost effective way.
I just hope someone comes up with the answer, before the Ulster GP is forever confined to the history books, because it might not be long before the North West 200 follows it. And then, heaven forbid, the Isle of Man TT.