Ulster Grand Prix 2011

A couple of days before the event began I took a drive round the circuit to see what had changed and also to have a look around the paddock. Some teams had arrived and some riders were also knocking about. Had a wee chat with Gary Johnson and congratulated him on his TT success.

Callum and Debs at start finish a few days before racing

McGuinness manor at UGP paddock

Unfortunately I had been unable to get annual leave for race week, the other inconsiderate lads I work with wanted some time off too. However I was able to swap a rest day and also to head up for morning practice before heading into work for a late shift. Callum was also working so could only manage UGP race day.

We both signed on as marshals and joined Hannah McCartney and her team marshalling the uphill section from Linday Hairpin to Flo Bog crossroads.

Memorial stone at Lindsay Hairpin

The weather was so typical Norn Iron. At times we could hardly see 50 ft due to the rolling mist, it rained and then the stiff breeze dried the circuit out.

Practice and qualifying sessions on Wednesday seemed to go on for ever, with many delays for weather and a couple of minor falls. If I remember rightly we were only getting away from the circuit at around 9 pm when it was getting dark. However I had enjoyed the day and met some good folk. I especially enjoyed marshalling up on the hill with John the flag man. It was a lonely old spot, but very fast and turned out to be the scene of a terrible accident the next day.

On Dundrod 150 day I could only stay until aboy 1pm when I would have to leave for work. So on Wednesday i got home at 10pm before leaving again at 7 am. Good job my missus understands :). The Thursday morning sessions were fine and I left in between races by running down to the hairpin before driving down into town for work. By the time I got to work about 20 minutes later I heard news of an accident on the circuit and that racing had been delayed. I then recieved a text that a rider was seriously hurt and the accident had occured in the Flo Bog section. I was devastated, but knew not to contact the marshals as I was sure they would be busy. later that evening I heard that Derek Costello from Skerries had come a cropper on the fast sweeping right hand rise before Flo Bog. He had left the road to his left and gone into the deep ditch on the side of the road. I knew the spot well. He had been rushed to the RVH in Belfast. I felt awful. The weather had then got worse and the Dundrod superbike race was abandoned after only one lap.

Flag post before Flo Bog

Approach to Flo Bog

I had to be in work on raceday at 5am and was due to work until 1pm which would mean that I would miss a whole lot of racing, but thankfully a colleague agreed to come in early and let me away about 10. By the time I picked Callum up from Central station it was near half 10 by the time we got up to the circuit but we had missed only one race. We quickly joined our marshal colleagues and thankfully had an incident free afternoon. hannah told me that had i stayed 20 minutes longer on Thursday I would have been the first marshal at the Derek Costello incident. In a way I was glad not to have been there, but the experience of helping the medical team and senior marshal would have been rewarding I am sure.

We witnessed some fanatstic racing in between showers. The battles between the Dunlop brothers was class, Ian Lougher on his 250 was amazing and Wayne Hamilton (tragically killed at Manx GP a few weeks later RIP) outstanding. The main superbike race was full of confusion as the eventual winner, Bruce Anstey started the race 7 rows back with something like 16 riders ahead of him. I can t recall how many crossed the line in front of him at the end but it was quite a few. However he was given the win on corrected time. Fair play but I cant help feeling gutted for Guy Martin who crossed the line first.

Another highlight of the day was to meet up with Walter and the boys, Shirley, Caroline, Jules and their Dad. They were all up watching from the Flo Bog and Callum and I were able to nip up in between sessions. Thanks also to Neil and Aaron @bluebullitt and @embracethesound for race updates from around the circuit.

The merry gang up at Flo Bog crossroads. Raceday UGP 2011

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