Armoy success 'bodes well for future' says race chief Bill Kennedy

Armoy Clerk of the Course Bill Kennedy said the success of the first Irish road race of the year ‘bodes well for the future’.

Sunday, 1st August 2021, 2:00 pm
Updated Sunday, 1st August 2021, 5:36 pm

The event was held under Covid-19 guidelines as racing around the three-mile course in the shadow of Knocklayde Mountain in Co Antrim returned for the first time since 2019.

Home hero Michael Dunlop grabbed the headlines with a five-timer and his ninth straight win in the blue riband 'Race of Legends', with the 19-time Isle of Man TT winner also shattering his 2013 lap record in the first Superbike event.

Spectators were in attendance at Armoy after the cap on 500 people at outdoor gatherings was lifted at the beginning of July. Fans purchased admission wristbands online, generating guaranteed income for the Armoy Club, and Kennedy said the model shows that road racing can have a financially secure future.

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Michael Dunlop celebrates his ninth 'Race of Legends' victory at the Armoy Road Races in Co Antrim on Saturday.

“Given the success of the weekend it is clear that road racing has an opportunity for a financially good future,” he said.

“The sponsors are without a doubt instrumental in making these races happen too. We had over 40 newcomers and the biggest entry ever, if I’m being honest too many but we wanted to give as many riders an opportunity to get some track time and we managed.

“This year we had to abide by numerous guidelines and restrictions and that alone was challenging, however I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the spectators. They followed the protocol, stayed in their zones, didn’t walk on the road.

“Given the last few years’ challenges that road racing has faced it was great to see the crowd. This was the biggest crowd we’ve seen for some time, they were very well-behaved, making marshalling so much easier.

“This was a very successful road race and bodes very well indeed for the future of this sport.”

Kennedy told the News Letter that none of the riders involved in crashes at Armoy had been seriously hurt, with Castleblayney’s Joe Loughlin – who came off on the warm-up lap for the feature ‘Race of Legends’, resulting in a one-hour delay to the Superbike finale, was due to be released from hospital on Monday.

“We had an incident on the warm-up before the ‘Race of Legends’ involving Joe Loughlin, which caused a delay of more than an hour,” he said.

“At that point, we were on course to have the meeting wrapped up by five o’clock, but these things happen in road racing and you have to be prepared for them.

“Thankfully, Joe is going to be fine and he is set to be discharged from hospital tomorrow. I was also speaking to Ryan Whitehall following his crash and he’s getting a pin in his broken leg, and then they will let him home as well.

“Nobody was seriously injured in any of the incidents and fortunately broken bones will heal. The guys who came off on Friday are fine as well, although Darryl Tweed opted not to race at all on Saturday because he was feeling too sore.

“Paul Jordan did race on Saturday after his crash, as did Matthew Rees in the Supertwin B race.’

Kennedy was also impressed by some of the standout results achieved by some of the Armoy newcomers at the weekend, including Phillip Crowe and former Grand Prix rider Chris Burns.

“There were some very impressive performances from the newcomers and Phillip Crowe caught my eye, as did Chris Burns, who was improving in every race,” he said. “Club member Jack Oliver was also impressive as he took second in the Senior Support.

“All in all it was a great return for Armoy, everyone enjoyed themselves and it has whet the appetite for the Cookstown 100 now in September.”