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.

 

 

2016 North West 200 Round-Up

2016 at the North West 200 saw records broken, the tragic loss of an impressive young rider, and a popular Dunlop victory.

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Alistair Seeley leads the first Supersport race

Alistair Seeley surpassed Robert Dunlop’s all time win record at the event by winning both Supersport races. This now puts him on 17 wins – two more than Robert’s 15 – with Michael Rutter, the closest current rider, on 13 wins behind him.

Conditions at the event were near perfect with sunshine splitting the skies on every day of action – and everyday in between!  As always practice sessions took place on Tuesday and Thursday during the day with racing starting on Thursday evening.

First up on the order was the first Supersport race, won by Seeley but he did not have it all his own way. Due to the nature of the track it lends itself to a lot of slipstreaming. This meant that a number of riders from the lead group had a turn in the lead. In the end he beat Ian Hutchinson and Martin Jessopp across the line.

  1. Alistair Seeley
  2. Ian Hutchinson +1.290
  3. Martin Jessopp +2.200
  4. William Dunlop +5.995
  5. Dean Harrison +6.581
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Ian Hutchinson during Supersport practice

Next on the agenda was the first Supertwin race which was blighted by red flags. The first of these was due to a house fire on the circuit which was dealt with swiftly. When racing resumed the red flags came out again after leaders had completed the third lap. Pole man Dan Cooper and Ryan Farquhar got caught up in an accident at Dhu Varren after Farquhar lost the front end. Cooper was reported to have dislocated both shoulders but was back in the paddock on Friday morning. Farquhar suffered more serious injuries and was airlifed to Belfast Royal Victoria Hospital. He has since been released from intensive care and has given interviews praising the North West 200’s medical team. Ivan Lintin was awarded the race win ahead of James Hillier and Jeremy McWilliams.

  1. Ivan Lintin
  2. James Hillier +1.184
  3. Jeremy McWilliams +10.681
  4. Martin Jessopp +15.265
  5. Malachi Mitchell-Thomas +1 lap
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Peter Hickman’s Trooper Beer Supersport bike

The Superstock race was postponed until Saturday. The second Supersport race was the first to be ran on the Saturday, with proceedings getting going swiftly after the roads had closed. It was to be another Seeley win this time with Jessopp second and Peter Hickman securing his first ever North West 200 podium in third. Just behind the podium trio was an impressive Malachi Mitchell-Thomas who started 16th and climbed up to fourth, just a second off a podium spot on his debut. Dean Harrison rounded out the top five with an aggrieved penalised Lee Johnston in sixth.

  1. Alistair Seeley
  2. Martin Jessopp +6.589
  3. Peter Hickman +24.642
  4. Malachi Mitchell-Thomas +15.958
  5. Dean Harrison +16.177

Thursday’s postponed Superstock race was next up and it was Hutchinson’s turn to stand on the top step of the podium. The race was run over five laps instead of the intended six and Hutchinson took the chequered flag first, albeit it by a narrow margin. It was another close run affair and in the end the top six riders were separated by just 3 seconds. Hickman finished second with Seeley in third.

  1. Ian Hutchinson
  2. Peter Hickman +0.615
  3. Alistair Seeley +0.767
  4. Michael Rutter +1.208
  5. Michael Dunlop +1.633

It was local favourite Michael Dunlop who romped to victory in the Superbike class. He ended up five seconds clear of Hutchinson but the race was red flagged after the fourth lap meaning it could have been a bigger gap. Bruce Anstey was clocked through the speed trap at a record speed of 209mph but unfortunately it was the Kiwi who caused the red flag. He came off his bike at Church but was thankfully OK. His accident brought an end to his unique record as well of a podium at every North West 200 since his debut in 2002. Michael Rutter finished third.

  1. Michael Dunlop
  2. Ian Hutchinson +5.206
  3. Michael Rutter +5.524
  4. Peter Hickman +5.686
  5. Lee Johnston +6.464
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Malachi Mitchell-Thomas during practice

The second Supertwins race proved to be the final race of the day after a fatal accident. It was a depleted grid following Farquhar and Cooper’s accident. Some riders also had to drop a race due to the rule of only being allowed to race five in a day. It was a close fought affair at the front with Lintin leading but the battle hot for second. Jessopp initially held the position but an impressive move by Mitchell-Thomas at the end of the second lap saw the newcomer up into second. The red flags came out after the leaders had completed the third lap. Sadly, it was Mitchell-Thomas off at Dhu Varren and the news soon came through that he had passed away. The race was declared with Lintin the winner.

  1. Ivan Lintin
  2. Martin Jessopp +5.035
  3. Jeremy McWilliams + 1 lap
  4. James Cowton + 1 lap
  5. Michael Sweeney + 1 lap

Understandably Event Director Mervyn White took the decision to cancel the final two races of the day.

Bruce Anstey’s North West 200 podium run comes to an end

Bruce Anstey’s unique podium record has come to an end following this year’s North West 200.

Making his debut in 2002 and winning a race, Anstey has stood on the podium at every North West 200 since then. He has corresponding records at the Isle of Man TT and Ulster Grand Prix which are still ongoing but his North West streak has come to an end.

The Kiwi was running in a podium position in Saturday’s Superbike race but he came off his bike at Church, thankfully without injury. During that race he was also clocked at 209mph through the speedtrap – a record speed. He certainly looked like he would be on for a podium but when the second Superstock and feature Superbike race were cancelled he lost out the opportunity.

Bruce Anstey’s North West 200 record

  • 2002: Winner in Production class
  • 2003: Third in Supersport Race 2
  • 2004: Winner in Supersport Race 1; Winner in Production class
  • 2005: Third in Supersport Race 1; Second in Superstock; Winner in North West 200 Feature Race
  • 2006: Third in Supersport Race 1; Winner in Supersport Race 2; Winner in Superstock Race; Second in Superbike Race 1
  • 2007: Winner in Supersport Race 1; Winner in Supersport Race 2; Winner in Superstock Race; Second in Superbike Race 1
  • 2008: Second in Superstock Race
  • 2009: Second in Supersport Race; Second in Superbike Race
  • 2010: Third in Supersport Race 2
  • 2011: Third in Supersport Race
  • 2012: Second in Supersport Race
  • 2013: Second in Superstock Race; Second in Supersport Race
  • 2014: Winner in Supersport Race
  • 2015: Third in Superbike Race

He was even on the podium when just one race ran in 2011 due to a number of factors. It was by far my favourite record on the roads and I hope he can go on to the TT and Ulster Grand Prix and extend his records there!

Ivan Lintin doubles up in Supertwins class at North West 200

Ivan Lintin became a two time winner at the North West 200 this year with two victories in the Supertwins class.

Thursday night’s race was red flagged following an accident involving race leaders Dan Cooper and Ryan Farquhar. The leaders had completed three laps and the result was declared meaning Lintin was the winner. Joining him on the podium were James Hillier and Jeremy McWilliams with Martin Jessopp fourth and the last rider to cross the line.

Newcomer Malachi Mitchell-Thomas was classified in fifth place ahead of Michael Sweeney, James Cowton and Christian Elkin. Paul Jordan and Danny Webb completed the top ten. Farquhar has since left intensive care and is said to be in a stable condition. Cooper returned to the paddock on Friday.

With Cooper and Farquhar missing from the grid on Saturday Lintin started from pole position and he pulled away at the front. All the action happened behind him with Mitchell-Thomas and Martin Jessopp battling for second place. Mitchell-Thomas pulled off an impressive move on Jessopp at the end of the second lap to move into second place.

The race was again red flagged and Lintin took the win with Jessopp the only other rider to cross the line to finish the third lap. McWilliams completed the podium positions.

Mitchell-Thomas came off at Dhu Varren and sadly succumbed to his injuries at the road side. He was a true star of road racing – demonstrated by his fourth place in the earlier Supersport race as well as his fight for the Supertwin podium. I continue to think about Malachi, his family, his friends, and all in the John Burrows team.

Local favourite Michael Dunlop takes NW200 Superbike win

Michael Dunlop was victorious in a truncated Superbike race at the North West 200.

Having suffered disappointment in both Supersport races, and finishing fifth in the Superstock race, Ballymoney man Dunlop raced to a convincing five second victory in the Superbike class.

It was record breaker Alistair Seeley away from pole position but he lost out at the start to Michael Rutter and then ran on at University. His error cost him a number of positions – he dropped outside the top 20 riders on the track and had to fight his way back through. Up at the front, as had been the case in earlier races, the lead changed hands a number of times with Ian Hutchinson and Dunlop both leading across the line at one stage or another.

Bruce Anstey was clocked through the speed trap at a record 209mph but unfortunately for the Kiwi – who had been in a podium position – he came off at Church, bringing an end to his race. Thankfully he was OK and was soon back in the paddock. This incident brought out a red flag after the fourth lap and the result was subsequently declared.

Dunlop was the winner, with a record breaking lap to boot, with Hutchinson second and Rutter in third. Peter Hickman came home fourth ahead of Lee Johnston, John McGuinness, and Conor Cummins. Seeley managed to recover to eighth place and he finished ahead of Didier Grams and Jeremy McWilliams, the latter of which was riding in the ‘big bike’ class at the North West for the first time.

Just outside the top ten were Horst Saiger, Sam West and Steve Mercer. Daniel Hegarty and John Ingram completed the top 15 riders, with Paul Shoesmith the leading rider from the second group in 16th.

Ian Hutchinson wins postponed Superstock race

Ian Hutchinson was the winner of the postponed Superstock race, his first win for the Tyco BMW team.

The race was put second on Saturday’s schedule having been called off on Thursday evening. It was initially delayed because of a security alert at Ballysally Roundabout and then red flagged on the second lap. The red flag was because James Hillier had come off his bike at University Corner. He was checked over by medical staff and was ruled out of the remainder of the day’s running due to taking a bang to the head.

After a brief delay the grid was reset and the race was run over five laps instead of the planned six. It was a close fought affair with any one of seven riders having the possibility of taking the win. Alistair Seeley was just one of a number of leaders with others including Michael Rutter, Michael Dunlop and eventual winner Hutchinson.

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Michael Rutter on track 
The long run to University from Station Corner lends itself to a lot of slip-streaming, and no rider was able to make a break. At one stage Dunlop lifted his hand to wave at Rutter as he passed him, while the pair sat at 200mph enjoying their close battle.

Eventually Hutchinson crossed the line to win the race breaking the lap record on the way. He capitalised when Seeley ran wide into Metropole.  The top six were separated by just over three seconds with the seventh rider in the mix – Gary Johnson – dropping off. After a third place in the second Supersport race, Hickman took another podium – this time finishing second. Seeley rounded out the podium finishers in third with Rutter fourth and Dunlop fifth. Lee Johnston finished in sixth place ahead of Johnson, Jeremy McWilliams, Horst Saiger and David Johnson.

There were a number of non finishers in the race including Paul Gartland who came off at University. While he initially returned to the paddock he has since been admitted to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast where he is said to be in a stable condition.

 

 

Seeley notches up win 17 in second Supersport race

Alistair Seeley was the eventual winner of Saturday’s frenetic Supersport race at the North West 200.

Having won the first Supersport race on Thursday evening – which was a record breaking 16th at the event – Seeley started from pole on his Gearlink Kawasaki but didn’t have it all his own way. The lead changed hands a number of times with riders including Lee Johnston, Michael Rutter and William Dunlop all leading the pack at one stage.

It was Johnston who crossed the line first after the first two laps but after cutting the Juniper Chicane, he lost a number of positions. He eventually crossed the line in third place but was demoted to sixth after picking up a ten second penalty. Stewards gave him the penalty after he was deemed not to have stopped after cutting the chicane – a rule which was introduced to ensure riders rejoin the track safely. He was clearly aggrieved of the decision and launched an appeal.

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Peter Hickman piloted the Trooper Beer Kawasaki to third place

With Johnston out of the way, and Dunlop and Rutter retiring, Seeley retook the lead and fended off a charge from Ian Hutchinson who also retired. Martin Jessopp was too far back to prevent Seeley taking a 17th North West 200 victory and he finished six seconds back. Peter Hickman was third – his first podium at the event after impressing as a newcomer in 2014.

Behind the trio of podium finishers, newcomer Malachi Mitchell-Thomas was an impressive fourth having started 16th. He was just a couple of tenths clear of Dean Harrison with Johnston classified in sixth. James Hillier, John McGuinness, Christian Elkin and Paul Jordan completed the top ten.