With stunning outright lap records, thrilling racing, breathtaking finishes and good weather, this year’s Ulster Grand Prix race day was one of the best yet and you literally couldn’t take your eyes off it.
The trend was set when Peter Hickman broke the outright lap record on Thursday to become the fastest road racer in the world but such was the ferocity of the racing, by Saturday evening he’d been relegated to the fourth fastest with Dean Harrison claiming a new outright lap record of 134.614mph as Dan Kneen and Bruce Anstey also went quicker than Hickman’s two day old record.
Hickman takes Man of the Meeting accolade:
Harrison may have walked away with the lap record and the final Superbike win but it was Hickman, riding on the crest of a wave, who took the Man of the Meeting award after taking a hat-trick of wins along with a second place from his five races, only a blown engine in the final race of the day denying him another clean sweep of International podiums.
The Smiths Racing rider took both Supersport race wins on the Trooper Beer Triumph as well as the opening Superstock encounter and he led them all from the front. Wily veteran Bruce Anstey got the better of him in the feature Superbike race albeit by just a couple of tenths of a second but, like the TT, he came away as the most successful rider at the meeting.
With his short circuit aspirations on the up – he currently occupies third overall in the British Superbike Championship – Hickman is without doubt the best all rounder currently racing and, such has been his form, there’s a good case for him being described as the best road racer too. With a great team behind him and a measured, mature approach on the track, it’s certainly a good time to be Peter Hickman.
Young guns shine:
Hickman’s wins were all hard fought and two of his fiercest competitors were Harrison and Kneen, the pairing now the fastest two riders around the high-speed Dundrod circuit.
Harrison has been flying all year on the Silicone Engineering Kawasaki’s and although he started the week with just one UGP podium to his name, he more than put that right as he added three more to his collection along with his first big bike win at one of the three major International meetings.
His battles with Hickman, Anstey, Kneen and Conor Cummins were breathtaking throughout and scary at times but he pulled off a move on Kneen at the hairpin on the last lap to finish the day’s racing on a high.
Kneen was drafted in to the Tyco BMW team at the last minute, just reward for his efforts on privateer BMWs at the TT and Southern 100 and he was never out of the top four. Indeed, he must have put himself into serious contention for earning a full time ride with the team in 2018.
Anstey delivers – again:
Disappointed to have only finished third in Thursday’s Dundrod 150 Superbike race, Kiwi rider Anstey was certainly in determined mood come UGP race day and he once again delivered the goods, taking his 13th UGP victory.
It was the third time in four years he’d won the feature Superbike race and he also gave the Honda RCV-213 its maiden road race victory. At 48 years of age, it’s hard to know how much longer Anstey can keep going for but the fact is he remains one of the best road racers on the planet and continues to chalk up the wins and podiums.
Cummins, Michael Dunlop, Lee Johnston, David Johnson and Jamie Coward all had strong days whilst Sam West and Daley Mathison also joined the 130mph club around the 7.4-mile circuit.
The closest race of the day though was the Supertwins when Dafabet Devitt Racing’s Ivan Lintin managed a daring, last lap, last corner pass on Dan Cooper to take the victory by just 0.024s.
As good as Saturday’s racing was, the meeting was overshadowed by the death of 2016 Manx Grand Prix Supertwins race winner Jamie Hodson, who was making his debut at the event, and serious injuries to Gavin Lupton and Stephen Lynd.
Devitt would like to pass on their condolences to Mr Hodson’s family and friends and wish the injured riders a speedy recovery.
If you would like to find out more about the Ulster GP then please take a look at our dedicated guide!
Having started watching motorcycle races all over the world form childhood, Phil Wain has been a freelance motorcycle journalist for 15 years and is features writer for a number of publications including BikeSport News and Classic Racer, having also been a regular contributor to MCN and MCN Sport. He is PR officer for a number of teams and riders at both the British Superbike Championship and International road races, including Smiths Triumph, Quattro Plant Kawasaki, John McGuinness, Ryan Farquhar and Keith Amor. He is also heavily involved with the Isle of Man TT Races, writing official press releases and race reports as well as providing ITV4 with statistical information.