If you were planning to see the centennial running of the Ulster Grand Prix in Northern Ireland in 2022, we unfortunately have bad news to report. After a tumultuous past few years, organizers had been talking to the press about plans for the 2022 return. As of March 7, 2022, the 2022 Ulster Grand Prix has now officially been canceled by organizers—and it’s starting to look like the event may not be feasible in the future, either.
For those unfamiliar, while the Isle of Man TT is the best-known motorcycle road race on the planet, the Ulster GP is one of the world’s oldest road races. The fact that it was about to celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2022 probably makes that point pretty clear, as most racing events simply don’t make it that far. Together with the North West 200 and the IOMTT, the Ulster GP is one of the crown jewels in the annual road racing season in and around the British Isles.
After seemingly overcoming the financial difficulties that had been hampering the Ulster Grand Prix since before 2019 (which was the last year an event was held), a new financial problem resulted in cancellation of the 2022 event. Event organizer Revival Racing MCC announced the cancellation based on a lack of agreed funding from Tourism Northern Ireland, it said. Revival Racing MCC is the organization formed by Mervyn Whyte and Phillip McCallen, with Whyte having been the longtime director of the North West 200 and McCallen an 11-time IOMTT winner and legendary Northern Irish road racer.
According to Tourism Northern Ireland, “it couldn’t justify the level of funding requested on both financial and legal grounds” for the 2022 Ulster GP. Meanwhile, Revival Racing MCC thanked Northern Ireland’s Department of Economy and Department of Finance, which had previously signed off on the plan in anticipation of the centennial Ulster GP being a great boon to the local economy.
"All parties have been involved in in-depth business case appraisals which have confirmed excellent value for money and a huge impact on the economy," Revival Racing’s statement reads, in part.
"We are aware that the cancellation of the UGP, which is celebrating its centenary year, is not just a huge disappointment for fans but also a major blow to the sport. But we are simply unable to stage what is one of Northern Ireland's oldest and most prestigious sporting events because TNI will not give the green light to funding which two government departments signed off,” it continues.
"We would like to thank the UGP officials for their unwavering support and endeavours to get the historic event up and running again,” Revival’s statement concludes.
In previous years, the Ulster Grand Prix had been organized by the Dundrod and District Motorcycle Club. By 2020, it faced a winding-up order (administration, basically) from the U.K. government, after racking up about £300,000 (about $394,560) in debt.
Things were so bad in 2019, even pre-pandemic, that it couldn’t afford to pay out prize money to race winners including Peter Hickman. For his part, he’d taken a seven-race victory over the course of two days in 2019. That year, Hickman also completed the Dundrod circuit at an average lap speed of 136.4 mph, thus reclaiming the title of “World’s Fastest Road Race” from the IOMTT.
In 2021, Hickman and others said they would consider returning to the UGP if they were paid what they were owed, and if guarantees about prize money for the 2022 event were made in advance. It was a special event—but now it may possibly be a thing of the past, with no one at the time having been aware that 2019 may have marked the end of the road.