Hard work for road racing starts now, says Bill Kennedy

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
Former longstanding Armoy clerk of the course Bill Kennedy said the future of motorcycle racing in Northern Ireland was on a ‘knife-edge’ until Wednesday’s eleventh hour insurance deal salvaged the 2023 calendar.

​However, Kennedy, who is a founding member of the Armoy club and remains heavily involved in the organisation of the Co Antrim road race, says the sport cannot be allowed to continue to lurch from one crisis to another.

He has called for a collaborative approach between the sport’s governing body – the Motor Cycle Union of Ireland (Ulster Centre) – and promoting clubs to ensure motorcycling racing here becomes ‘self-sustainable’.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Speaking after it was confirmed that a reduced insurance quote, down by almost £100,000 to £315,000, had been agreed, Kennedy said the ‘hard work begins now’.

Northern Ireland motorcycling is set to go ahead this year following a last-minute insurance deal.Northern Ireland motorcycling is set to go ahead this year following a last-minute insurance deal.
Northern Ireland motorcycling is set to go ahead this year following a last-minute insurance deal.

He also thanked those who had contributed to a crowdfunding campaign, which has raised more than £92,000 towards the insurance costs.

“Time was running out and it was absolutely on a knife-edge,” he told the News Letter.

“I personally want to thank the fans who contributed to the crowdfunding because without them, it wouldn’t have happened.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“That has eased the pressure on clubs and the money is going directly from the controllers (of the crowdfunding campaign) to the insurers, so without the fans and the support of all the people who contributed, it would not have happened – that’s how critical it was.

“It shows that there were diehard fans there who contributed to this and wanted to see racing go ahead this year,” Kennedy added.

“But I believe the hard work starts now because we cannot find ourselves in this situation again in a year’s time – we need to put something in place so that money is available.

“I don’t think fans or clubs will want to go through this again and we need to be in a self-sustaining situation next year.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Kennedy, though, warned that costs are likely to continue to spiral in the future and has stressed the need for a proactive strategy to avoid a similar crisis next year.

“The riders put on a show for us and the promoters spend a lot of money,” he said.

“In the case of Armoy, we were up to £160,000 to put on a national road race last year and it’s more costly this year.

“Those costs will continue to spiral, so we have got to be in a situation where we don’t have to go cap in hand to the general public – we need to have the money together.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“All the clubs and the governing body need to sit down now and put everything on the table. We need to discuss best practice and the way forward.

“Can we approach the government and maybe change the legislation so that we can introduce charges to the events, the same way it is for any other sporting event?

“It has to be the same for road racing and people need to be prepared to put their hand in their pocket.”

Kennedy was also at pains to dismiss claims from some sceptics that the governing body had cried wolf and exaggerated the extent of the crisis facing the sport.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“This crisis could not have been emphasised enough. The insurance cost for a national road race rose from £19,000 to £54,000 initially this year – this was not a case of crying wolf,” he said.

“It was unsustainable and no club could have raised that amount of money on top of what it takes to provide everything else required at a race meeting, from ambulance cover, first aid, toilet facilities, traffic management, portacabins – so many things that are needed for racing to take place.

“This was a crisis and one that we are very fortunate to get out of.

“We can’t stagger from crisis to crisis and it needs to be sorted properly with a plan put in place,” added Kennedy.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“Everyone needs to know what they are doing, and the clubs and the governing body need to work together with Sport NI and with support from Tourism NI, and the local councils.

"For the benefits that road racing brings to the local economy then that support is deserved.”

The first road race of the 2023 season is the Cookstown 100, which is scheduled to take place from April 21-22.

The North Armagh Club’s Tandragee 100, due to have been held from April 28-29, will not go ahead this year after funding for crucial resurfacing work did not materialise.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

In May, the North West 200 will take place from May 9-13 prior to the Isle of Man TT.

Armoy’s ‘Race of Legends’ retains its traditional dates on the final weekend of July (28-29), while it is hoped the Ulster Grand Prix will run as a two-day national meeting at Dundrod from August 18-19.

The opening short circuit race of the year at Bishopscourt in Co Down is the Temple club’s meeting next weekend.

In the Republic of Ireland, all short circuit races at Mondello Park have been cancelled while there has been no further progress regarding insurance cover for road races organised by Motorcycling Ireland.