World Superbike Championship: New Co Tyrone circuit set to host race
ONE of the world's biggest motorsport events, the World Superbike Championship, is coming to Co Tyrone from next year.
A round of the championship will be held at the new Lake Torrent Circuit which is being built in Coalisland.
The £30 million circuit will host races for at least three years from 2019 following a deal between Manna Developments and Dorna WorldSBK Organization.
The 35,000-capacity circuit is expected to be packed during several days of practice sessions, qualifying and races.
The developer behind the 3.6km circuit, motor-racing enthusiast David Henderson of Manna Developments, said the project will regenerate the Coalisland area and boost tourism.
Construction of the track will create 700 building jobs and there are plans to build a further 90 retail and business units around the circuit.
Current world champion, Co Antrim-born Jonathan Rea, said he was looking forward to racing in the north.
Rea (30), who has won the championship three consecutive times, said: "I'm so excited about this news because motorcycling in Northern Ireland has a huge heritage, right through from Joey Dunlop to myself and Eugene Laverty".
"I'm very curious to see how the track is going to look, but I’m sure it will be very well attended because the fans over there love their bikes," he said.
"I can't wait to get the chance to go there in 2019, and it's an incredible way to nurture young talent. I can't wait to be involved and to fly the flag for Northern Ireland in this new adventure, and it would be nice to create a circuit that many people talk about as the best in the world."
Now in its 31st season, the championships are broadcast to a global television audience.
Mr Henderson said he had wanted to build a motorsport arena for many years.
"For the past 15 years it has been a dream of mine to build a motor racing circuit that incorporates the feel of the road with the safety of an international standard track - and also to bring the World Superbike Championship to Northern Ireland," he said.
"Having finally identified the perfect location and achieved planning permission last year, today sees the completion of that dream and is a day that will only be topped when we see tens of thousands of spectators converge in Coalisland for the first WorldSBK racing event in Northern Ireland.
"They really don't come much bigger than this."
Last September, Mid Ulster District Council granted planning permission for the first phase of work at Lake Torrent which includes the race circuit, pits, medical centre, restaurant, hospitality suites, six business units and a crèche, as well as a new public ring road.
Speaking at a reception in the council offices in Dungannon yesterday, WorldSBK Executive Director Daniel Carrera said the circuit "is a fantastic project that will deliver a high-class facility for competitors and visitors".
He added: "With the large tradition and culture in motorcycling in Northern Ireland, I am sure that this event could become a reference in our championship in the near future".