It was the big road racing event of the year for thousands of race fans from all over the world as they headed to the Dundrod circuit for the FonaCAB Ulster Grand Prix.

The 7.4 mile circuit held the title of the ‘fastest road race in the world’ until the Isle of Man TT, but could they retain that title?

With qualifying on Wednesday and Thursday out of the way, four races were scheduled for Thursday evening, and the fans certainly weren’t disappointed.

In warm sunshine and perfect conditions, the first of three Superbike races took to the track.

Dean Harrison, who previously held the lap record, got off to a flying start chased down by the ever fast Peter Hickman. Harrison held that lead for the first two laps, but on lap three, it was Hickman on the Smiths BMW who went for glory, smashing the lap record in the process, putting his lap speed to 136.415 mph, thus retaining the fastest road race status once again.

He then went on to take the chequered flag from Harrison with Conor Cummins third, while Maguiresbridge man Lee Johnston came home in fourth. Meanwhile Ederney’s Paul Gartland, who had mechanical difficulties most of the weekend finished down in 33rd position.

With the Enniskillen club members all having a great season in the Ultra Lightweight class, the next race was going to be an interesting one for Melissa and Wayne Kennedy and Gary Dunlop. Unfortunately, for Gary in qualifying, his Moto3 expired going on to the Flying Kilo but had already put in the third fastest time. For Melissa and Wayne, they had seemingly problem free sessions, finishing fifth and sixth respectively. In the race however, it was Melissa who got off to a flying start, and throughout the shortened three lapper, had a titanic battle for third place with Nigel Moore, while at the front, Michael Dokoupil held a slight advantage over Christian Elkin.

As they crossed the line, it was Melissa who held on to take her first ever UGP podium by just two thousands of a second. Meanwhile Wayne was involved in a three way battle with Chris Meyer and Dunlop on a borrowed bike, and that’s how it finished for fifth, sixth and seventh positions.

Run concurrently, it was Neil Kernohan who took the win in the Lightweight class by the narrowest of margins over Davy Morgan and Paul Williams. Unfortunately this was to be their only completed race of the weekend, as their second race was red flagged due to an incident.

It looked like Lee Johnston was going to take victory in the first Supersport race. Having already won on the same bike at both the Northwest 200 and Isle of Man TT races, he was determined to get his treble, but it just wasn’t to be. Having led for the first five laps with that man Hickman breathing down his neck continuously, they battled hard and constantly changed positions on the final lap before Hickman took the win by less than half a second from Johnston with Dean Harrison back in third.

It was a similar scenario for the second and third Supersport races, with Hickman taking both the wins from Johnston, while behind them, Davey Todd and Conor Cummins completed the podiums in the respective races.

The first Supertwin race was one of the best races of the meeting. Throughout, the lead changed several times as the battle raged between Paul Jordan, Joe Loughlin, and Jamie Coward, but it was Jordan who took his first UGP win of his career, and only 0.3 seconds covered the three riders as they crossed the line.

Lee Johnston was to pick up his fourth podium in the second Supertwin race, coming home in third position, while at the front, it was Elkin who took the win over Loughlin by just 8/1000s of a second after almost 40 miles of racing. Paul Gartland meanwhile, whose 650 Kawasaki had been well down on power during qualifying, finished 19th and 17th in both races respectively.

In the Superstock race, it was Hickman again who stamped his authority on proceedings right from the off, and as the race progressed, he left the rest of the chasing pack in his wake as he went on to take another win from Todd and Cummins.

Johnston who had qualified on the front row of the grid, didn’t get off to the best of starts, but battled hard throughout the six lap race to make his way through the field from eighth and take a brilliant fourth place finish as they crossed the line.

It was to be another fourth place finish in the second Superbike race for Johnston, but once again, it was Hickman who hit the front on lap two of six, and held on to take the chequered flag from Harrison and Cummins. No luck for Gartland again as he had to retire the Kawasaki. It was a similar scenario for the front three in the third Superbike race, and the final race of the meeting. Hickman once again dominated, taking an amazing seven wins from seven starts. Meanwhile Gartland had a better run in this one, finishing in 22nd place.

As an added bonus for race fans, Gary Dunlop did a parade lap on the Honda RC45, the bike which his late father, Joey, won on back in 1999. Conor Cummins also took part in the parade on the V&M bike which was ridden by the late David Jeffries in the same year.

All credit must go to clerk of the course Noel Johnston and all his team at the Ulster Grand Prix. As dawn broke on Saturday morning, it looked like the spectators might have to leave early disappointed, but all club members and circuit personnel worked tirelessly to bring everyone a great event.