Armoy Clerk of the Course Bill Kennedy says there is ‘every possibility’ Michael Dunlop will bid for a record eighth ‘Race of Legends’ victory at the popular Irish road race this weekend.
Ballymoney man Dunlop sustained injuries including a reported broken pelvis following a crash at the Southern 100 on the Billown course on the Isle of Man earlier this month.
However, the 19-time TT winner heightened expectations of an earlier than anticipated racing comeback after testing his MD Racing Honda Supersport machine at Aghadowey on Wednesday, while the 30-year-old was also believed to have taken part in a further test on Thursday at Kirkistown in County Down.
Dunlop missed his home race at Armoy in 2018 after taking time out of the sport in the wake of his brother William’s fatal accident at the Skerries 100.
He has won the past seven instalments of the blue riband ‘Race of Legends’ at the event, which pays homage to the memory of legendary Armoy Armada members Joey Dunlop, Mervyn Robinson, Frank Kennedy and Jim Dunlop.
The race did not take place last summer when heavy rain thwarted the organisers, but race chief Kennedy says Ulsterman Dunlop could turn up to defend his title and challenge for a record eighth successive win.
“Michael’s entry is in and he sent it before he went to the Southern 100, from memory,” Kennedy said.
“He’s down to be on the Tyco BMW and his own 600 Honda and I believe there is every possibility he will race at Armoy. He obviously hurt himself at the Southern 100 but he’s been back testing this week and it would be no surprise to see him out there.
“Having Michael would make our race and it would certainly bring the fans out in their droves, so we will wait and see on Friday,” Kennedy added.
“Preparations have been going well and the weather forecast is looking favourable for Friday and Saturday, so hopefully we can have a good, safe race and everyone goes home happy.”
The line-up features a strong southern Irish contingent, with Derek Sheils bidding for an eighth Superbike victory in a row at the Irish National meetings on the Burrows Engineering/RK Racing Suzuki.
Derek McGee is back in action following his crash in qualifying at the Isle of Man TT, while Michael Sweeney is another of the leading contenders at Armoy.
Magherafelt’s Paul Jordan won the Friday evening Supersport race in 2018 and returns on his 600 Yamaha, when he will be amongst the favourites for more podium honours, while English rider Sam West is a high-profile newcomer to the event.
This year’s 11th Bayview Hotel Armoy Road Races will mark the 40th anniversary of the death of Bill’s brother, Frank Kennedy, who tragically lost his life following a crash at the 1979 North West 200.
As a tribute to ‘big Frank’, a new Senior Classic race has been incorporated into the programme, which is being sponsored by Bill himself.
“It’s 40 years since Frank died after his crash at the North West and we’re holding this new race in his memory,” Kennedy added.
“In previous years, it just wasn’t feasible to hold a single race for Senior Classic machines, but a rule change has opened the race up to more machines, such as four-cylinder Hondas and MV Agustas for example, so we were able to run a race for those machines this year.
“I’m really pleased with the entry and we’ve got Dominic Herbertson riding the Davies Motorsport Honda-4 and Mark Purslow is riding a similar bike as well. There’s also Ben Rea on a four cylinder Honda and the Irish road racing regulars like John Leigh Pemberton and Richard Ford, so I think you’ll see some close racing on Saturday.”
Roads close on Friday for practice from 12.30pm. The first Senior Support and Supersport races will be held afterwards, time-permitting.
On Saturday, roads will close at 10am for the main race programme.