Bill Kennedy urges ‘common sense’ over Armoy spectator limits

Armoy race chief Bill Kennedy has a simple message ahead of Thursday’s meeting of the Northern Ireland Executive: ‘It’s time to unlock the door and allow real road racing to return in Northern Ireland’.

Thursday, 1st July 2021, 6:00 am

Kennedy is hoping the current limit of 500 spectators at outdoor events will be relaxed, allowing the first Irish road race of 2021 to take place at the end of this month.

Motorcycling has been particularly hard-hit by the impact of Covid-19 over the past 15 months, with only one national road race taking place last year after the postponed Cookstown 100 was held in September.

The Armoy Club has been working hard behind the scenes in preparation for the popular ‘Race of Legends’ in Co Antrim from July 30-31, but Clerk of the Course Kennedy says the event will only be viable if the limit of 500 is significantly increased.

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Michael Dunlop celebrates winning the Race of Legends at Armoy for the eighth time in a row in 2019.
Michael Dunlop celebrates winning the Race of Legends at Armoy for the eighth time in a row in 2019.

The Executive will meet to discuss easing further Covid-19 measures ahead of the indicative date of July 5, which was pushed back from June 21 due to a rise in the number of Delta variant Covid cases.

Kennedy told the News Letter: “My message is that it’s time to unlock, let the people get back out and enjoy themselves, and see real road racing at Armoy.

“We need to raise the numbers up from 500 and get back to greater normality now with the summer months upon us.

“People need something to look forward to after the lockdowns and having an event such as Armoy would give fans a big lift.

“How long do continue with such a cautious approach? I think the time has come when people are going to demand their freedom. A big dose of common sense is needed.”

Kennedy said he would be ‘totally surprised’ if further restrictions are not eased and argues the Armoy countryside provides a low-risk setting for fans to attend the race.

“I would be totally surprised and I can’t see any real justification for the number to be curtailed at 500,” he said.

“We’re not hemmed into a marquee, a stadium or any kind of enclosed arena – we’re out in the rolling hills of North Antrim where we have natural ‘grandstands’ and where people can take up a position, stay there and use the sanitisation facilities available, and keep their distance where they need to.

“I can’t see why there would be any difficulty whatsoever in permitting 4,000 to 5,000 people around a three-mile course like Armoy in the middle of the countryside.

“We are ready to put on a show and give the community and people from further afield a real boost this summer after what has been a difficult time for everybody with this pandemic.”

Kennedy believes motorcycle racing in general has been given the raw end of the deal across the UK, with this weekend’s World Superbike Championship round a Donington Park, where six-time champion Jonathan Rea will be in action, only allowed 4,000 spectators.

This was also the case for last weekend’s opening British Superbike event at Oulton Park, yet 140,000 spectators will be permitted at the British Formula 1 Grand Prix at Silverstone after it was deemed a ‘pilot test event’.

“Donington Park is a wide open space and it’s limited to 4,000 spectators for the World Superbikes, yet you’ll have 140,000 for the British Formula 1 Grand Prix, and Wembley will be packed with 60,000 for the Euros,” Kennedy said.

“It makes you wonder if these decisions are made up as they go along.

“Motorcycling seems to be getting the rough end of the stick but I hope that we hear some good news on Thursday when the Executive meets to review the current restrictions.

“An international golf tournament (ISPS Handa World Invitational)is being held on the same weekend as Armoy at Galgorm and as I understand it, they are looking for 2,500 spectators per day.

“This is in a much smaller environment than what fans attending Armoy would be in, so I very much hope that common sense prevails and we have good news around the lifting of these restrictions.

“I think we’ll have a cracking day’s racing at Armoy.”

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