Fans were given the opportunity to meet some of the riders who will take part in August’s Ulster Grand Prix last night at the Ramada in Belfast.
The ‘Meet the Riders’ event, which was the first one held by the race, was attended by a number of fans and eight of the riders. The night featured a Q&A session with the riders and fans were then able to go and meet them for autographs and photographs, including the occasional selfie! As well as the riders, Tyco, Mar-Train and Bathams BMW had brought bikes which fans could sit on to have their photo taken.
William Dunlop, Jamie Hamilton, Dan Kneen and Paul Owen were amongst the riders in attendance. Michael Dunlop, who had been at the official launch earlier in the day, sent his apologies as he had travelled to Germany to visit BMW. Stephen Thompson, Lee Johnston, Peter Hickman and Dean Harrison were also there. The riders were asked a number of questions and there was banter a-plenty between them as they answered. They discussed what goes through their minds when they’re racing, how they react after incidents with other riders, and if they could ride for any team who it would be. Riders were particularly sketchy about this one. Hickman offered up Repsol Honda while Harrison, whose team were in attendance, said Mar-Train – his current team. Dunlop was asked about his accident at this year’s TT and he said he was very lucky to come away with a break on a part of his leg that isn’t really very important. He revealed that he hopes to be racing at the Skerries this weekend if Tyco can get a bike sorted.
Riders were also asked if when they had moments on the bike did it play on their minds on proceeding laps? Some said that it did but Dunlop explained that normally they look much worse than they actually are so it isn’t really that big a deal. This year’s Ulster Grand Prix will be Paul Owen’s last, with the rider revealing that he is retiring from international road racing. Harrison jokingly asked was he really retiring, or would he be one of those riders who ‘retired’ and returned in six months. Also on stage, Hamilton and Johnston were awarded with their medals for joining the 130 club at last year’s Ulster Grand Prix.
The riders also touched on the controversial topic of fatalities in road racing, which has come to the fore of debate following the tragic death of Simon Andrews at this year’s North West 200. Riders felt strongly about the topic with Hickman and Harrison debating how people could complain about something they’d never been to before. They also noted that the people who were calling for road racing to be banned are the same types of people who like to jump on ‘bad news’ and won’t discuss the winner of a race. Owen pointed out that more people die fishing in Northern Ireland, but nobody calls for it to be banned.
All-in-all it was an enjoyable evening. As well as the riders in attendance, Clerk of the course Noel Johnston promised that there were more big names to be announced.