COMPROMISE over controversial government proposals for the future of the Manx Grand Prix could still be possible after a meeting between event organisers the Manx Motor Cycle Club and politicians on Wednesday.
The meeting with Economic Development Minister John Shimmin and the department’s political members came after supporters of the MMCC staged a demonstration outside Tynwald on Tuesday morning.
Related article: MGP protesters lobby MHKs ahead of Tynwald sitting
Far from revitalising the event, protesters said the government’s proposals to restructure it could well kill it off all together.
At least 50 to 60 people with banners turned out from 8.30am to register their objections to plans by the Department of Economic Development to revamp the format of the MGP from 2013.
The plans would see a focus on classic machines, the modern bike races would be cut by 50 per cent and the emphasis would be on getting professional riders to take part in what has historically been an amateur event.
A meeting the week before, organised by the MMCC at the Mount Murray Hotel, heard the club’s concerns over the government’s proposals, released apparently after taking no account of the club’s own suggestions.
The club also voiced grave concerns about the accuracy of calculations on which the government had based its findings that the event made a £360,000 loss.
Protester Dave Moffitt, winner of last year’s MGP Supertwins race and an ambassador for the event recently visited the Helsinki motorcycle show promoting it. The move was part of a drive to recruit newcomers and was not government instigated or funded.
He said the proposed loss of the Newcomers’ race was a mistake and involving professional riders in the Manx - historically an amateur event - was doubtful as it clashes with a British Superbike round at Cadwell Park.
He said the proposals may well alienate many of the existing loyal riders particularly in the already dwindling classic classes.
Dave Sells, who rode in his first MGP in 1985, said he had so many objections it was hard to know where to start.
‘We need to keep the MGP name and the heritage,’he said.
‘What happens to all the side events like the Manx two day trial? There must be 1,000 who come over for that – and the spectators.
‘Visitors at the moment go to the island’s tourist attractions on the days that the racing isn’t on. The whole island is going to lose out.
‘The heritage sites for example take far far more money during the MGP - more than during the TT. It’s a more mature demographic.’
Already he said the visitor numbers to the Manx had visibly grown and the key was in promoting it.
Monica Floding, who herself raced in the event in the late 90s and now marshals, added: ‘It’s a brilliant event. And people enjoy it for the greater variety. The TT races tend to be very similar.’
The loss of smaller capacity bikes like 125s, 250s and 400s was also to be regretted, she said.
Technical officer Will Clucas who at last week’s meeting called for supporters to demonstrate outside Tynwald said he was pleased with the level of response.
‘Something has to come out of this. We have to save the MGP,’ he said.
‘There may well have to be change but if their proposals go through it’s going to kill it.’
Former competitor Bill Snelling who runs the TT Fotofinders photograph archive said there was a serious risk of losing 90 years’ heritage.
MGP competitor and sidecar passenger Dave Corlett said removing the modern classes would ‘blight the event’s future’.
‘What they forget is the Manx Nortons and Matchless G50s were the modern bikes of their era. Remove the modern classes and you remove the event’s heart.’
One hotelier who joined the demonstration said the proposals had already had a negative impact on his trade.
Gary Compsty of the Ginger Hall Hotel at Sulby said six of his guests booked in for 2013 – when the proposals are supposed to take effect – had already cancelled because they were not interested in attending the revamped event.
A written petition against the DED’s proposals has topped 1,500 signatures and a separate online one started by former travelling marshall John McBride, chairman of the MGP Riders’ Association, has passed 3,500 names.
A press release issued jointly by the MMCC and the DED on Thursday said: ‘As a result (of Wednesday’s meeting), the two organisations will continue to work together in the best interest of the event.
‘Further meetings will be held and as progress is made joint press releases will be issued.’