The Oliver’s Mount circuit in North Yorkshire faces an uncertain future with last week’s announcement that the Spring Cup, due to take place this weekend, was being cancelled.
Having been part of the British motorcycling racing calendar since 1946, and played host to some of the sport’s greatest names, the circuit is one of the oldest still in use whilst it remains the only venue in England to host races on public roads.
However, after two incidents at last year’s International Gold Cup meeting left a number of spectators injured, some serious, the governing ACU carried out an inspection which required a number of safety improvements to the 2.4-mile circuit to be carried out.
And, sadly, the ACU announced last week it would be unable to offer a circuit licence to the event after agreed safety improvements to the course had not been carried out in time. The organising Auto 66 Club sought a last-minute solution to the issues but to no avail and it spells a worrying future for the woodland circuit.
Improvements made – but not enough
As requested following the investigation, the club have implemented numerous new safety measures which have included new fences being put up, road signs moved, course markers purchased, additional marshal’s posts built and additional harris-style fencing being installed in order to improve the safety of the tree-lined course.
However, the club has claimed the main issue surrounds the number of recticel bales they would have had to purchase to comply with the requirements of the ACU – claiming the cost would amount to £90,000.
Organisers of the Ulster Grand Prix did offer the Auto 66 club the required recticel, but the offer came ‘too late’ to save the event with the permit and insurance not possible without a course licence needing to be place already.
Finances have been tight at the venue for some years now with escalating insurance just one area that has seen costs rise dramatically, something that, most probably, would only have increased after last year’s events. The club also has to hire the venue from the local Scarborough council each weekend, another area that could well have had an impact on funds.
The club worked tirelessly over the winter months to make the aforementioned improvements but securing even more funding for the required amount of recticel proved too difficult – quite simply, they couldn’t afford to purchase the amount of recticel needed.
Hopes of raising money at their two-day club meeting at Cadwell Park in March were thwarted by the weather which led to the entire cancellation of the second day’s racing. Instead of making money, the club actually made a loss – but relying on such a meeting to raise money clearly isn’t a healthy situation to be in.
The kind gesture of the Ulster GP organisers to offer the Auto 66 the required recticel unfortunately came too late despite an appeal to both the ACU and Scarborough council. It was too late to save the event with the permit and insurance needing to have been in place already.
What happens next is unclear and open to debate. The Auto 66 are determined to reschedule the Spring Cup for later in the year but spare weekends are practically non-existent and they already have three other meetings planned – if, of course, the funding can somehow be generated.
The fact remains that Oliver’s Mount is a dangerous circuit, one that can never be safe. Lined with fences and trees – on both sides – at it’s widest it can only be twelve feet and there’s probably not much more that can be done to accommodate 200bhp motorbikes.
It’s not an uncommon scenario and has been experienced by circuits elsewhere, primarily in Northern Ireland where the likes of the Temple 100 and Carrowdore 100 fell by the wayside despite their long heritage, victims of having been outgrown by the speed of the machinery. What was fit for purpose in the 1930s, wasn’t in the late 1990s when both of these stunning circuits held their final races.
Oliver’s Mount has had to battle against the odds on numerous occasions before. It nearly went out of business in the early 1970s whilst rider attendance has ebbed and flowed. It’s perhaps best to end with the closing part of the statement issued by the Auto 66 which may be an admirable, and ambitious sentiment but one that needs embracing and supporting as the circuit’s survival is most certainly at a crucial point.
“Oliver’s Mount is England’s only road race circuit. The history that has been created at this unique venue means we will not be ending the journey in this way. This is not the end, but the start of a new, safer Oliver’s Mount road race venue.”
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.