Armoy entries confirmed but question mark over seven-time 'Race of Legends' winner Michael Dunlop

Michael Dunlop made it seven 'Race of Legends' wins in a row at Armoy in 2017 on the Bennetts Suzuki.
Michael Dunlop made it seven 'Race of Legends' wins in a row at Armoy in 2017 on the Bennetts Suzuki.
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Armoy Clerk of the Course Bill Kennedy has confirmed a bumper entry for the popular Irish National road race, although one name currently absent is that of seven-time ‘Race of Legends’ winner Michael Dunlop.

Entries closed earlier this month and a number of leading names are set to grace the grid on July 26-27, with Derek Sheils among the main favourites on the Burrows Engineering/RK Racing Suzuki.

Dunlop, who has chalked up seven consecutive wins in the headline race at Armoy, was absent last year following the death of his brother William in a crash at the Skerries 100.

However, the ‘Race of Legends’ did not go ahead after the main Saturday race day was cancelled due to heavy rain, safeguarding his unbeaten run in the race.

The 19-time Isle of Man TT winner is a massive draw at his home road race, but there is now a question mark hanging over his appearance.

Along with Sheils, Mullingar man Derek McGee is also entered. McGee has been out of action since he was injured in a crash during Lightweight qualifying at the Isle of Man TT last month.

A triple Irish champion last year McGee – who will compete in the Superbike, Supersport, Supertwin and Moto3/125GP races – is expected to make his return at his home race this weekend at Walderstown.

Magherafelt’s Paul Jordan, who won the Friday evening Supersport race last year, will also return on his Yamaha R6, although fellow Northern Ireland rider Adam McLean will miss out through injury following a crash at the Tandragee 100 in May.

Skerries man Michael Sweeney is another top contender on his Martin Jones Racing machines along with fellow Republic of Ireland riders Thomas Maxwell and Kevin Fitzpatrick.

Ballymoney’s Darryl Tweed has been in fine form of late and will hope to challenge for the top three in the Supersport class in particular on his 600 Honda at his local race, while high-profile English rider Sam West will make his debut at the event.

Kennedy said: “I’m very happy with the entries this year. We’ve some top class riders and it’s sure to make for some interesting riding on race day.

“We’ve a few entries from foreign riders from Switzerland and Germany, and with 22 newcomers, they come from Aberdeenshire to Somerset and from County Cork to Ballymoney, which goes to show just how attractive our road race is.

“The Classics, although not everyone’s cup of tea, is this year a bit extra special for me given it’s the Frank Kennedy race.

“It has some interesting bikes and riders, with Dominic Herbertson from Hexham on a Davies Motorsport Honda 4 and newcomer and Welshman, Mark Purslow on a Honda CB500 Four.

“Dominic is definitely one to watch having finished in the first ten at Senior TT,” added Kennedy.

“Throw into the mix Barry Davidson with his six Armoy classic wins and the competition is wide open, so it will be very interesting indeed.”

Gary Dunlop has won the last three Moto3/125GP races at Kells, Enniskillen and Skerries, and Kennedy is looking forward to seeing the Ballymoney man in action in the livery used by his legendary racing dad Joey during a memorable 1999 season.

“Gary has been in winning form, currently leading the Irish and Ulster Moto 3/125GP Championship, and we’ve a very decent entry for that race too,” he said.

“It’ll be great to see his bike in his father’s winning colours.

“To be honest I really wasn't sure how the entries would be this year as you just never know, but I am really delighted to see so many make the effort to come along, so a big thank you to all of them. Now we just need the weather and the fans."