John Tennant talks to Noel Johnston, Clerk of the Course at the Metzeler Ulster Grand Prix in the next instalment of our online interview series.
This year, Clerk of the Course Noel Johnston will celebrate his 14th year in charge of the World’s Fastest Road Race, the Metzeler Ulster Grand Prix. Here he shares his thoughts on last year’s event and looks forward to Bike Week 2015.
When Bike Week comes to an end, the hard work is only starting for the organisers of the Metzeler Ulster Grand Prix.
What happens immediately after a race meeting?
At the end of Bike Week the first thing we do is organise a major de-brief with the Clerk and Deputy Clerk of the Course, PSNI, Fire Service, Medical Services, MCUI Stewards and members of the executive board of the Dundrod & District Motorcycle Club.
There are so many people involved in making the Ulster Grand Prix the success that it is, so by bringing everyone together and holding this review we can identify areas for improvement in our planning, preparation and how we run the event.
We believe that in the long term this will benefit everyone from competitors and spectators and the media and residents in the local area.
Safety is always a particular priority and we’re constantly evaluating our procedures to ensure that nothing is compromised.
What will you be working to improve for the 2015 races?
Last year was a great success, so for us it’s about making small improvements.
One issue we will be working on for 2015 will be maintaining the safety of spectators around the track. We’re improving our grandstands and access around the circuit, as we want fans to have the best possible experience.
The fans can help us too, as it is important that they understand it isn’t always possible to stand right at the edge of the road as it often compromises the measures we’ve put in place to protect them. If you obey the marshals it is always greatly appreciated.
Alongside safety we’re working on logistics, such as introducing more parking to improve traffic flow and ease of access, and new portable radios will be available to listen to commentary around the circuit.
Then of course there is all of the entertainment and hospitality on offer as part of Bike Week each year, and we’ve got some fantastic things in the pipeline!
As you mentioned, there is a large team behind the scenes at the Metzeler Ulster Grand Prix, how important is this support network?
I can’t praise everyone involved in the organisation and running of Bike Week enough. It takes months of prior planning and no one man can tackle everything, so their combined effort is a critical part of our success.
We have a large number of volunteers who are invaluable, and they really make my role as Clerk of the Course much easier.
Are their any difficulties in running two race meetings in one week?
Some people might not know, but as Clerk of the Course at the Metzeler Ulster Grand Prix I also officiate over the Dundrod 150 races, which take place on the Thursday of Bike Week.
The Dundrod and District Motorcycle Club had been running the Dundrod 150 Road Races since 1994 with great success, but for many years the event was held in June, two months before the Grand Prix.
It was a real challenge for the organisers, as the circuit had to be set up and race ready twice in quick succession. It simply made much more sense to combine the two, holding both in the same week.
Today, the Dundrod 150 is a thrilling warm up for the main event on the Saturday, providing a fantastic platform for national road racers and upcoming names to learn the course and build valuable track time. It’s also the first chance to see who is on the pace!
Logistically it can be difficult to squeeze everything in, but its great for spectators as there’s much more wheel to wheel action.
The paying public continue to turn up in their thousands for both events and with their support and the dedication of our entire team, the success of the World’s Fastest Road Race is in safe hands for the foreseeable future.