New Zealand rider Bruce Anstey was named ‘Man of the Meeting’ at the Ulster Grand Prix following his wins in the Supersport and Superbike classes.
On Thursday afternoon the Dundrod 150 races took place with newcomers James Cowton and Peter Hickman among the winners. Cowton won the National race ahead of Robert Kennedy and Colin Stephenson while Hickman convincingly beat Alistair Kirk by over 20 seconds, with Philip Crowe in third. Cowton also won the Lightweight race ahead of Neil Kernohan and Joseph Loughln. The Ultra-Lightweight class was won by Christian Elkin who finished five seconds clear of Daley Mathison who in turn was ahead of Paul Jordan. Lee Johnston took victory in the Supertwins class – beating Connor Behan and Keith Amor – with Guy Martin narrowly finishing ahead of Anstey and Michael Dunlop in the Superbike race. Anstey’s second place means he continues his impressive record of finishing on the podium at least once at every North West 200, Isle of Man TT and Ulster Grand Prix for the last 12 years.
The Ulster Grand Prix took place on Saturday and the day was interrupted by red flags. The first race of the day – the Superstock race – was red flagged after just a lap due to the poor weather conditions. When the race was restarted as a five lap event there was a close battle between the top three, as Dean Harrison, Dan Kneen and Anstey pulled away from the rest of the field. Kneen eventually took the win but by the narrowest of margins as he crossed the line just 0.001s clear of Harrison. Anstey finished just a tenth of a second back on the pair of them with Stephen Thompson in fourth ahead of debutante Hickman in fifth, The second race of the day was also red flagged but this time because of an incident involving three riders. Following the highs of finishing first and second in the Superstock race, Kneen and Harrison were two of the riders taken to hospital following the accident with reported fractures. Kneen took to Twitter to confirm he had broken his foot while Harrison was reported to have dislocated his shoulder and was receiving treatment for other fractures. Amor was the third rider involved in the incident. When the Supersport race was restarted William Dunlop took an early lead and started to pull away from the field. He was later reeled in by Anstey and the pair exchanged positions but on the last lap it was Dunlop still ahead. Unfortunately there was heartbreak for the Ballymoney man as his engine gave up on the last tour of the circuit. This allowed Anstey to win his first race of the day – his ninth overall at the meeting – beating Lee Johnston and Guy Martin.
The third race of the day was the Lightweight/Ultra-Lightweight classes. The Lightweight class was once again won by Cowton this time beating John Ella and Ian Morrell by a highly impressive margin of half a minute. In the Ultra Lightweight class there was an exciting battle between Mathison and Elkin, with the former crossing the line first by just two tenths of a second. Paul Jordan finished in third place. The wins were the first for Cowton and Mathison at the Ulster Grand Prix. In the first Superbike race, Anstey got revenge for losing out to Martin in the Dundrod 150 Superbike race by overtaking the Tyco Suzuki rider on the final lap. When Martin caught up with backmarkers, Anstey seized the opportunity to close the gap and overtake, eventually crossing the line two tenths ahead of Martin. Johnston was three seconds back on the duo and finished ahead of Michael Dunlop. The second Supersport race was then due to take place but it was red flagged following an incident involving four riders at Deers Leap. Superbike winner Anstey slid off his bike due to the conditions on the first lap of the race and that resulted in an incident involving Ian Hutchinson, Steve Mercer and Michael Sweeney. Hutchinson gave Mercer a lift back to the pits on the back of his bike. There was then a lengthy delay as marshals worked to ensure that the track was safe for bikes to go out on, including putting cement dust down on an oil spill. Riders were held at various points around the circuit for a long period of time before eventually being released and allowed to return to the pits. The clerk of the course – Noel Johnston – took the decision to abandon the race due to the deteriorating weather conditions.
The final race of the day was the Supertwins. In difficult conditions Ivan Lintin raced to victory a clear 14 seconds ahead of Derek McGee who in turn finished ahead of Cowton. The remaining Superbike race was cancelled as was the abandoned Supersport race.
Following his incident, Anstey was later back in the paddock to receive his Man of the Meeting award while Cowton and Hickman shared the Best Newcomer award. The event was expected to be a battle royale between Martin and Michael Dunlop, but like his brother, the Ballymoney man endured a difficult meeting. His best finish was fourth in the Superstock race before he retired from the Supersport and Superbike classes. Martin on the other hand took a sixth, a third and a second but failed to add to his winning tally. Next up on the road racing calendar is the Classic TT which kicks off on 23rd August and will include a tribute lap to Joey Dunlop featuring his greatest rivals, whether they are actually taking part themselves or being represented by another rider.