by Kyle White
Ulster Grand Prix organiser Noel Johnston has conceded that the ongoing recession will continue to make life extremely difficult for the promoters of road race meetings in 2012.
At the recent AGM of the sport's governing body in Northern Ireland, officials from Irish road races including the North West 200 expressed concern over the financial challenges they face and stressed the need for a change in legislation to empower clubs to charge an admission fee at their events to provide alternative income.
The only road racing event entitled to levy an admission fee in Northern Ireland is the Ulster Grand Prix, which was granted the privilege under law when Dundrod hosted a round of the world championships.
As the man in charge of one of the country's leading international road races, Johnston knows only too well the challenges that are being posed by the economic downturn.
The 'Prix' has produced arguably the best road racing action seen anywhere over the past three years but Johnston told Crash.net
the club is still feeling the effects of the cancellation of the meeting three years ago and remains in debt to the tune of £45,000.
“It's very hard to sustain a road race and the recession is having an adverse impact,” he said.
“We are still trying to clear our debt from 2008 and it would be nice if we could break even - but it's very difficult and we're struggling to overcome the deficit, which is about £45,000.
“Everyone is feeling the pinch and companies are prepared to pump money into road racing when they are having to freeze pay rises and lay staff off.
“We needed people to turn up and support us this year and while many did, we had people trying to get into the circuit for free and doing everything they could to beat the system.
“But it's not just the Ulster Grand Prix - all road races are finding it tough and I wouldn't be surprised if some of the smaller events went to the wall, because although it doesn't cost as much to run a national race there are still big costs involved.
“It's hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Michael Dunlop stole the show at the Ulster Grand Prix in August, winning both Supersport 600 races and seeing off Guy Martin to clinch the Superstock honours.