Armoy Road Races: Neil Kernohan eager to cap Irish road racing season on high

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Ballymena’s Neil Kernohan says he is going the extra mile to try and make his mark at next month’s Irish road racing finale at Armoy.

The Co Antrim meeting (July 28-29) will be the last event on a decimated calendar in 2023, with all national meetings in the Republic of Ireland cancelled due to the unavailability of insurance.

Only the Cookstown 100 and North West 200 have taken place this season, with the Tandragee 100 called off due to the need for crucial resurfacing work on the Co Armagh course.

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Kernohan, a dyed-in-the-wool Irish road racer, missed the Cookstown 100 in April due to a lack of preparation after the event only received the go-ahead with weeks to spare after a late insurance deal was tabled.

Neil Kernohan (right) with fellow racers Adam McLean and Paul Jordan, and Clerk of the Course William Munnis at the launch of the Armoy Road RacesNeil Kernohan (right) with fellow racers Adam McLean and Paul Jordan, and Clerk of the Course William Munnis at the launch of the Armoy Road Races
Neil Kernohan (right) with fellow racers Adam McLean and Paul Jordan, and Clerk of the Course William Munnis at the launch of the Armoy Road Races

The former Ulster Grand Prix winner will ride a 600cc Yamaha in the Supersport class and has also built a new 1000cc Yamaha R1 as he targets the top six in the Superbike races.

“I’m out on my 600 Yamaha and I’m building a new Yamaha R1 for Armoy,” said Kernohan, who was joined at the official launch of the Armoy Road Races by fellow riders Adam McLean and Paul Jordan in Portballintrae on Wednesday.

“I don’t know that the R1 is the bike to have but I just seem to like riding it.

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“The plan is to get to Kirkistown as much as I can before Armoy to get plenty of track days done.

Neil Kernohan on his 1000cc Yamaha R1 ahead of Michael Sweeney in practice at the Mid Antrim 150 last yearNeil Kernohan on his 1000cc Yamaha R1 ahead of Michael Sweeney in practice at the Mid Antrim 150 last year
Neil Kernohan on his 1000cc Yamaha R1 ahead of Michael Sweeney in practice at the Mid Antrim 150 last year

“This new R1 is only built so I need to get out on it and get it set up,” he added.

“I’ll just do my own thing rather than going to an Ulster Superbike round because when you come to Armoy it’s a whole different ball game.”

Armoy holds a special appeal for Kernohan, who says the event harks back to a golden era of Irish road racing when the rival Armoy Armada and Dromara Destroyers ruled the roost.

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“It’s my home race, it’s where I started road racing and it’s kind of where my heart lies,” he said.

Michael Dunlop has won the 'Race of Legends' a record nine timesMichael Dunlop has won the 'Race of Legends' a record nine times
Michael Dunlop has won the 'Race of Legends' a record nine times

“I love everything about it. Everybody treats you right, you’re always made welcome and everyone knows everyone.

“Everyone involved in running Armoy knows how racing was run back in the day and they bring that with them to the event.

“It still has that throwback feel to it when riders would have turned up with a bike in the back of a van and everybody had a bit of a laugh.

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“I enjoy riding the big bike and I’m hoping for a good result on it. If I could get a top six on the Superbike I’d be over the moon,” added Kernohan.

“The boys in front have been to the TT or BSB and they’ve done a lot of miles, so you’re on the back foot before you even get going.

“So if I was running in the top six I think that would be a really good result.

“There’s a lot of support at Armoy and probably quite a few people who don’t go to other races. It means you want to try and make that extra little step and look for good results.”

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A strong line-up is expected at Armoy, where England’s Davey Todd won four races in 2022 and set a new outright lap record.

Ulster’s Michael Dunlop, who has won the feature ‘Race of Legends’ a record nine times, withdrew from the event last year after citing ‘unfair treatment’ of his MD Racing team.

Now a 25-time Isle of Man TT winner, it remains to be seen if the Ballymoney man will return to his home race.

Yorkshire’s Jamie Coward, a Supertwin and Classic Superbike race winner on his debut at Armoy last summer, is set to return on the KTS Racing/Steadplan machines and Stanley Stewart’s Yamaha R6.

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Along with Kernohan, McLean and Jordan, Cork’s Mike Browne is another leading name on the Burrows Engineering/RK Racing machines, while Derek Sheils is also set to compete on the Roadhouse Macau BMW.

Skerries man Michael Sweeney could also make his comeback from injury at the event after crashing at the North West 200 in May.