What is it with this country? While new racing circuits seem to pop up in the most unlikely places round the world, we have had three attempts in the last couple of years and all have failed.
The latest, hailed as the track to bring WorldSBK and local hero Jonathan Rea home to Ireland, has gone bust before a sod was turned. It bears horrible similarities to the ill-fated Circuit of Wales. Both were backed by Dorna, both fell foul of planning or lack of it and both ran out of money.
The Lake Torrent circuit at Coalisland in mid-Ulster was a £30 million pound venture backed by an outfit called Manna Developments. it ran into difficulties earlier this year over the discovery and tests relating to old mineshafts on the site which, surely, was hardly a surprise.
The developers are saying that despite being forced into receivership they remain committed to seeing through their vision describing it as a “lifetime opportunity.” Sounds like a long term one.
And then we had the other Welsh circuit at Eppynt at which the equivalent to the TT was going to be staged in August. Money was not the problem here. It was just that part of the circuit, thought to consist solely of private roads, turned out to be public and permission from adjacent landowners had not been obtained. Event postponed. No further news.
What conclusion can be drawn from these sad ventures driven, on the one hand, by speculators wanting to make a fast buck and on the other by honest and well meaning volunteers and Dorna anxious to find a new circuit in the UK. And one which could showcase their WorldSBK superstar. So a mixture of arrogance, poor homework and in Dorna’s case well-meaning naivety from a very professional organisation which, in the case of Ulster, had no financial risk.
Unlike, for example, Spain where circuits are constructed and supported by the state or region, the UK has to construct, renew or survive on entrepreneurs willing to take risk. Permanent venues, particularly outdoor ones, such as race circuits, horse racing courses or even golf courses are costly to maintain and require a high level of utilisation to break even let alone make a profit.
Little, if any, is made from hosting high profile events like MotoGP, F1 or WorldSBK without sponsorship or state aid. Although it does raise the profile from which money can be made.
But the question has to be asked: Why does the UK need another race circuit? We have some of the best in the world. OK only Silverstone and Donington can hold world championship events and, in the case of F1, only Silverstone. If more are thought to be required it must be cheaper to modify than build. That was, of course, attempted at Donington with disastrous results.
It would be great to hold a world championship event in Ireland, the home of road racing, and there is much to be admired in the ambition. But rather than building a new circuit, would it not be possible to do a big job on an existing circuit like Bishopscourt or Kirkistown or Mondello?
But even having bred the greatest Superbike rider of all time, the cost of construction, conversion and subsequent upkeep would almost certainly be too much for an island nation whose first love is the roads.