Ulster Grand Prix sign new title sponsor deal

The Ulster Grand Prix will have a new title sponsor this year in the form of MCE Insurance.

Keith Amor Ulster
Metzeler were the previous title sponsors

The motorcycle insurance company – which has sponsored the British Superbike Championship for nearly a decade – has signed a three year deal to become the title sponsor at the Ulster Grand Prix, starting this year. Metzeler tyres had previously been the title sponsor of the event.

“We are truly excited to make this major announcement which marks the beginning of an exciting new chapter for the Ulster Grand Prix,” Clerk of the Course Noel Johnston revealed. “We’ve seen and been impressed by the support MCE Insurance has offered the BSB in the past eight years. This is a company that understands bikes and the mentality of both bikers and bike fans, making it a fantastic fit for us. We believe [this] will allow us to really build our profile as the world’s fastest road race across the UK, Ireland and beyond.”

“For us, MCE’s decision to commit to a three year deal is a clear demonstration of confidence in the strength of our event,” Johnston continued. “[It] undoubtedly offers some of the most thrilling racing seen anywhere on the roads, and its ability to offer significant exposure and value to its partners. It goes without saying that there would be no event without the support of our stakeholders, and this is an opportunity for us to thank MCE for getting involved, as well as organisations such as Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council, Tourism NI and the Ulster Grand Prix Supporters Club, plus a wide range of private sector sponsors for their ongoing support.”

Lee Johnston Ulster
Lee Johnston in the pit-lane at last year’s event

Race organisers recently announced the introduction of a Superpole qualifying session for the Superbike class at this year’s event.  “We are working hard behind the scenes to deliver another spectacular week of racing this August,” Johnston concluded. “I don’t think the fans will be disappointed.”

For MCE it is a deal which they have been interested in for a while. “We are incredibly proud to finally release the news that we will be the title sponsor for the MCE Insurance Ulster Grand Prix,” CEO Julian Edwards said. “We have been interested in sponsoring a road racing event over in Ireland ever since we began offering insurance for Irish bikers back in 2014. When the opportunity at the Ulster came up it was one we just couldn’t refuse! With such an incredible history, the event truly is a jewel in the road racing calendar.”

“We intend to bring all our experience gained over nearly a decade of sponsoring MCE BSB and very much look forward to working with the Ulster Grand Prix team,” Edwards continued. “Racing is in our blood here at MCE and this is a very exciting new chapter for us.”


Ulster Grand Prix race week will take place from 8th until 13th August 2016.



Ferrari fastest at first in-season test

The first in-season test of the season has taken place at the Circuit de Catalunya.

Ten teams were in action with a mixture of race drivers and test drivers behind the wheel. Sauber opted to sit the test out. Sebastian Vettel set the fastest time of the two day test on the first day.

The order of the day on day one was mainly shorter, qualifying runs for teams. Three drivers completed over 100 laps – including pacesetter Vettel – while Pierre Gasly was the highest placed test driver in terms of times. Williams test driver Alex Lynn had an unusual rear wing fitted as Williams focused on aero work in preparation for 2017.

On day two Pascal Wehrlein completed testing work for Mercedes having driven his Manor on the first day. Red Bull trialled an updated engine while McLaren reserve Stoffel Vandoorne spent the day testing new parts on the McLaren. Daniil Kvyat was pleased to get some significant running under his belt as he got some “essential” laps to reacclimatise with the Toro Rosso following his seat swap. Renault were another team with an updated engine while Felipe Massa continued Williams’ aero work.

Day 1

  1. Sebastian Vettel – Ferrari – 1:23.220
  2. Nico Rosberg – Mercedes – 1:23.337 – +0.117
  3. Jenson Button – McLaren – 1:23.753 – +0.533
  4. Romain Grosjean – Haas – 1:23.882 – +0.662
  5. Pascal Wehrlein – Manor – 1:24.297 – +1.077
  6. Daniel Ricciardo – Red Bull – 1:24.307 – +1.087
  7. Pierre Gasly – Toro Rosso – 1:24.821 – +1.601
  8. Alfonso Celis – Force India – 1:25.467 – +2.247
  9. Alex Lynn – Williams – 1:26.071 – +2.851
  10. Esteban Ocon – Renault – 1:26.530 – +3.310


  1. Nico Rosberg – Mercedes – 119
  2. Esteban Ocon – Renault – 105
  3. Sebastian Vettel – Ferrari – 103
  4. Alfonso Celis – Force India – 99
  5. Romain Grosjean – Haas – 96
  6. Daniel Ricciardo – Red Bull – 89
  7. Jenson Button – McLaren – 86
  8. Pascal Wehrlein – Manor – 86
  9. Alex Lynn – Williams – 86
  10. Pierre Gasly – Toro Rosso – 78

Day 2

  1. Max Verstappen – Red Bull – 1:23.267
  2. Stoffel Vandoorne – McLaren – 1:24.006 – +0.739
  3. Pascal Wehrlein – Mercedes – 1:24.145 – +0.878
  4. Esteban Gutierrez – Haas – 1:24.592 – +1.325
  5. Antonio Fuoco – Ferrari – 1:24.720 – +1.453
  6. Daniil Kvyat – Toro Rosso – 1:24.737 – +1.470
  7. Alfonso Celis – Force India – 1:25.016 – +1.749
  8. Kevin Magnussen – Renault – 1:25.133 – +1.866
  9. Felipe Massa – Williams – 1:27.167 – +3.900
  10. Jordan King – Manor – 1:27.615 – +4.348


  1. Pascal Wehrlein – Mercedes – 133
  2. Kevin Magnussen – Renault – 122
  3. Max Verstappen – Red Bull – 118
  4. Antonio Fuoco – Ferrari – 118
  5. Daniil Kvyat – Toro Rosso – 116
  6. Stoffel Vandoorne – McLaren – 108
  7. Esteban Gutierrez – Haas – 105
  8. Alfonso Celis – Force India – 103
  9. Felipe Massa – Williams – 94
  10. Jordan King – Manor – 91

F1 2016: Monaco Grand Prix Tyre Choices

Tyre choices for the Monaco Grand Prix are as follows:

DRIVER Soft Supersoft Ultrasoft
Lewis Hamilton 1 2 10
Nico Rosberg 1 2 10
Sebastian Vettel 2 2 9
Kimi Raikkonen 2 2 9
Valtteri Bottas 2 4 7
Felipe Massa 2 4 7
Daniel Ricciardo 1 2 10
Max Verstappen 1 2 10
Kevin Magnussen 1 2 10
Jolyon Palmer 1 3 9
Nico Hulkenberg 3 3 7
Sergio Perez 3 3 7
Daniil Kvyat 3 3 7
Carlos Sainz 3 3 7
Fernando Alonso 1 5 7
Jenson Button 1 5 7
Marcus Ericsson 1 4 8
Felipe Nasr 1 4 8
Pascal Wehrlein 2 5 6
Rio Haryanto 2 5 6
Romain Grosjean 1 3 9
Esteban Gutierrez 1 3 9

Following the hard compound debuting for the year at the Spanish Grand Prix, another tyre compound gets its debut at the Monaco Grand Prix.

The Ultrasoft tyre is an all new compound from Pirelli and has been favoured heavily by most teams on the grid. While the Ultrasoft tyre is the compound with the most sets for all teams, the split between the other compounds vary.

Mercedes, Red Bull and Kevin Magnussen have all opted for 10 sets of Ultrasofts, two Supersoft sets and just one set of the Soft tyre. Ferrari have gone for two, two, nine for Soft, Supersoft and Ultrasoft. Jolyon Palmer and the Haas drivers have chosen just one set of Softs but three Supersofts and nine Ultrasofts. Both Williams drivers have selected four sets of the Supersofts with two Softs and seven Ultrasofts.

Force India and Toro Rosso have gone three, three, seven in terms of Softs, Supersofts and Ultrasofts, leaving just McLaren, Manor and Sauber with different strategies.

At McLaren their drivers have chosen to bring one set of Soft, five of the Supersoft and seven sets of Ultrasoft. Sauber also have one set of softs for each driver but four Supersoft and eight Ultrasoft.

The Manor team have split their choices between Supersoft and Ultrasoft a bit more evenly. Each driver will have two sets of Softs available, five Supersoft and six Ultrasoft.

Revised race schedule confirmed for Saturday at North West 200

A revised schedule has been confirmed for Saturday at this year’s North West 200.

Three races were due to take part on Thursday evening and the Supersport race ran without a hitch. Alistair Seeley was the winner meaning he is now the most successful rider around the Triangle circuit.

The Supertwin race was red flagged twice – the first time because of a fire and the second time because of an accident. A fire broke out at a property at Station Corner leading to a delay as fire engines attended the scene. The race was restarted and was to be run over the full race distance but was red flagged on the final lap. An accident between Ryan Farquhar and Dan Cooper – who had swapped the lead throughout the race – brought out the red flags and the race was not restarted.

Due to the setting sun race organisers called off the Superstock race and it has been added to the schedule for Saturday.

The race schedule will now be as follows:

  • Race 1: BetMcLean.com Supersport race
  • Race 2: Spidi Superstock race (from Thursday night)
  • Race 3: Anchor Bar Superbike race
  • Race 4: John M Paterson Supertwin race
  • Race 5: CP Hire Superstock race
  • Race 6: Vauxhall NW200 Superbike race

Regulations stipulate that competitors may not take part in any more than five races in a day. This means that some riders, who are entered in all four classes, will have to sit out one race.

Updates on the conditions of the injured riders can be found at the North West 200 Facebook page.IMG_6281

F1 2016: Spanish Grand Prix Tyre Choices

Driver tyre choices for the Spanish Grand Prix are as follows:

DRIVER Hard Medium Soft
Lewis Hamilton 1 5 7
Nico Rosberg 1 5 7
Sebastian Vettel 1 4 8
Kimi Raikkonen 1 4 8
Valtteri Bottas 1 5 7
Felipe Massa 1 5 7
Daniel Ricciardo 2 4 7
Max Verstappen 2 4 7
Kevin Magnussen 2 4 7
Jolyon Palmer 2 4 7
Nico Hulkenberg 2 5 6
Sergio Perez 2 5 6
Daniil Kvyat 1 6 6
Carlos Sainz 2 5 6
Fernando Alonso 1 5 7
Jenson Button 1 5 7
Marcus Ericsson 2 6 5
Felipe Nasr 2 6 5
Pascal Wehrlein 2 5 6
Rio Haryanto 2 5 6
Romain Grosjean 2 3 8
Esteban Gutierrez 2 3 8

The Mercedes, Williams and McLaren drivers have opted to take one set of the hard compound tyres, five sets of the medium compound and seven of the soft compound tyres. Once again Ferrari have differed from their main rivals to pick eight sets of the soft compound and just four of the medium.

As Daniil Kvyat and Max Verstappen have swapped seats, their tyre choices remain with the car. This means that Kvyat’s tyre choices were originally Verstappen’s, and vice versa.


McWilliams to stand in for injured Kneen at North West 200

Jeremy McWilliams will race for Mar-train Racing at this year’s North West 200.

Regular rider Dan Kneen was injured on Friday in a “training accident” and required surgery on his arm yesterday. He is currently at home on the Isle of Man recovering. Practice for the North West will start on Tuesday and McWilliams has been drafted in to race for the team.

“Obviously I am disappointed for Dan that this has happened,” Team Principal Tim Martin said. “We have had a fantastic build up to the event and I was confident he would have been very competitive. Thankfully the minor surgery he had has gone very well. He is now on the road to recovery and we are hopeful he will be fit for the TT in a few weeks time. At this late stage there were not many options available to us so we are very lucky that we have been able to bring in someone of Jeremy’s pedigree. He was part of our test programme at the beginning of 2015 so has some knowledge of our bikes already, with no recent testing it will be a challenge but I am sure we can put on a good show for our fans and sponsors.”

“It is nice to be able to step in for Dan and help the team out this week,” McWilliams said of the news. “I have a great relationship with Tim and the team and have experience of working with them in the past. I’m keen to race the North West 200 with another professional outfit and during race week my time will be divided between KMR SGS and Mar-train. I am looking forward to getting on the Yamahas to see how far they have come on over the past year.”

McWilliams will continue to race for Ryan Farquhar’s KMR team in the Supertwin class.




Kvyat and Verstappen to swap seats with immediate effect

Daniil Kvyat and Max Verstappen will swap race seats for the remainder of the year, it has been confirmed.

Speculation had been rife over Kvyat’s future with Red Bull Racing following his incidents with Sebastian Vettel at the start of last weekend’s Russian Grand Prix. The team has now confirmed that Kvyat will move back to Toro Rosso where he previously spent a season. As a consequence, Verstappen will step up to partner Daniel Ricciardo at Red Bull.

The team released the following statement from Team Principal Christian Horner:

Max has proven to be an outstanding young talent. His performance at Toro Rosso has been impressive so far and we are pleased to give him the opportunity to drive for Red Bull Racing.

We are in the unique position to have all four drivers across Red Bull Racing and Toro Rosso under long term contracts with Red Bull, so we have the flexibility to move them between the two teams.

Dany will be able to continue his development at Toro Rosso, in a team that he is familiar with, giving him the chance to regain his form and show his potential

Kvyat made his Formula One race debut in 2014, joining Toro Rosso as the reigning GP3 champion. He was then promoted to a race seat with Red Bull following Vettel’s move to Ferrari. He got his first podium at last year’s Hungarian Grand Prix and was on the podium at this year’s Chinese Grand Prix.

Verstappen has impressed the Formula One paddock in his short F1 career so far. Making his debut in 2015 at just 17 years old, his best finish so far has been fourth on two occasions. Many have him pegged as a future World Champion. He will make his Red Bull senior team debut at the Spanish Grand Prix and will race with the team for the remainder of the season.