Armoy Road Races tribute to former Armada member Frank Kennedy on 40th anniversary of his tragic death

Pictured at the launch of the Bayview Hotel Armoy Road Races are (from left): Neil Kernohan and Paul Jordan; Bill Kennedy MBE, Clerk of the Course; Tommy Henry, Armoy Armada member Jim Dunlop and Ian Lougher, with Miss Armoy 2018, Lauren Trotter.
Pictured at the launch of the Bayview Hotel Armoy Road Races are (from left): Neil Kernohan and Paul Jordan; Bill Kennedy MBE, Clerk of the Course; Tommy Henry, Armoy Armada member Jim Dunlop and Ian Lougher, with Miss Armoy 2018, Lauren Trotter.
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This year’s Bayview Hotel Armoy Road Races will commemorate the 40th anniversary of Frank Kennedy, who tragically died as a result of injuries sustained in a crash at the 1979 North West 200.

‘Big Frank’, who was the brother of Armoy Clerk of the Course, Bill Kennedy, was part of the famed Armoy Armada, which consisted of Joey and Jim Dunlop and Mervyn Robinson.

This year's Armoy Road Races will commemorate the 40th anniversary of the death of former Armoy Armada member Frank Kennedy.

This year's Armoy Road Races will commemorate the 40th anniversary of the death of former Armoy Armada member Frank Kennedy.

The fabled Irish road racing group’s rivalry with the Dromara Destroyers from 1977 to 1979 holds legendary status in the sport’s folklore.

Frank and his fellow Armada racers became the inspiration for the ‘Race of Legends’ meeting at Armoy, which was first held in 2009.

The event was officially launched yesterday at the Bayview Hotel in Portballintrae, when Phillip McCallen and Geoff McMullan hosted a chat show.

Guests included Dromara Destroyers members Brian Reid and Trevor Steele, plus Jim Dunlop, George Farlow, sponsors and guests.

Race chief Kennedy, who will sponsor a new Senior Classic race this year in Frank’s memory, said: “It is 40 years since my brother Frank died and I just couldn’t let this year go by without marking it.

“I went with Frank to many of the road races where I would have helped with the bike and on the very rare occasion would have raced myself.

“Racing wasn’t easy for Big Frank, he was well over six feet tall and he was prone to many an injury. Frank and the rest of the boys in the Armoy Armada created something extremely special in those days,” Kennedy added.

“Today and over the last week of July this year, we will remember their acts of commitment, dedication, camaraderie and talent – it is those qualities that have confirmed them as legends in this sport and it is that which the Armoy Road Races are built on.

“Today, I’m especially delighted with the turnout for the launch. It is a great reflection on the Club, this road race and what we can expect from the races this year.”

Poor weather forced the cancellation of the main Saturday race programme in 2018, but Kennedy says the club will bounce back stronger.

“After last year’s challenges, we’ve been working hard to ensure that we’ve a solid entry and I’m sure there will be more details in the coming weeks of who’s who, as the Isle of Man TT is just finished and many riders are only turning their attention to the Armoy Road Races now,” he said.

“Race entries don’t close until Monday, July 1st and I’m confident that we will attract more of the best road racers.”

Road racers Paul Jordan and Neil Kernohan were also present yesterday although Adam McLean, who hasn’t raced since he was hurt in a crash at the Tandragee 100, was unable to attend.

Magherafelt man Jordan took victory in a thrilling Friday evening Supersport race at Armoy last year, edging out McLean in one of the closest finishes ever at the event.

Kennedy said: “Last year, on the Friday, we saw two of the closest races we’ve had at Armoy. It was Paul Jordan that clinched the top spot from Adam by just half a wheel. Undoubtedly 2019 will see not only a great Bike Week with a jam-packed programme of events but some of the best road racing this year.

“Once again, I implore all fans to make your way to Armoy in the last week of July.”

The race meeting will take place from Friday, July 26 to Saturday, July 27.

A series of events are planned during race week. Details: www.amrrc.com.