Ulster GP funding to improve safety spent mostly on facilities instead

Government money allocated to the Ulster GP for safety upgrades used only a portion of it for its intended purpose, reveals an investigation by the BBC

Jamie Hodson [Credit: Ulster GP media]

It has emerged government money allocated to the organisers of the Ulster Grand Prix improve the safety standards of race were instead mostly used for refurbishment of club facilities.

An investigation by the Northern Ireland arm of BBC News discovered a £255,000 funding package given to the club by then Sports Minister Paul Givan in 2017, with the primary objective to raise safety standards, focused on building upgrades. 

Givan described it as one of his ‘most important actions since coming into office’ at the time bu the BBC reports only £25,000 of that money was spent on safety bales, with the rest going a new club house and facilities, such as a toilet block and showers.

Three riders have died at the Dundrod circuit since 2017 – Jamie Hodson and Gavin Lupton in 2017 and Fabrice Miguet in 2018. The latter died at Joey’s Windmill right-hander, striking the same telegraph pole that killed Hodson a year earlier.

In all, £535,000 was allocated to improve motorsport safety across Northern Ireland by the Department for Communities and distributed by Sport NI. The North West 200 received £124,000 for safety improvements, with other funds allocated to smaller regional events.

The funding was confirmed on 24 January 2017, but the events were given until only March 31 2017 to complete their projects. Sports NI told the BBC reviews had been completed, but that it had not completed an evaluation of how the money was spent but that it was planning to conduct one.

How was the Ulster GP money spent?

A Freedom of Information request reveals the £255,000 was broken down as follows: £190,000 was spent on the club house and the riders’ paddock, £40,000 on the hard surfacing to improve access and £25,000 on 80 safety bales.

Dundrod & District Motorcycle club provided a report detailing how the money was spent and how the money contributed to the safety of participants and spectators along the seven-mile course. 

This states the money was spent on an extension to the riders' paddock, intended to accommodate race vehicles and conform to fire regulations, plus ‘race safety seminars, marshal training, newcomers’ induction courses and training for the hundreds of volunteers involved in running the motorcycle racing event each year".

A spokesman from Paul Givan does say he believed the money spent has had a positive impact, despite the fatalities since then. 

"Sadly, since the investment was made there have been more fatalities. However, lives have also been saved, including a rider at the North West 200. Whilst the number of incidents and injuries prevented as a result of the investment cannot be fully quantified, undoubtedly it has made a positive impact."

This year’s Ulster Grand Prix saw it return to status as the world’s fastest road race after Peter Hickman clocked a 136.415mph lap.