Insurance crisis deepens as six races left standing

Guy Martin (Hydrex Honda) pictured here in 2009, is one of the many star names to have raced at Kells in Co Meath.Guy Martin (Hydrex Honda) pictured here in 2009, is one of the many star names to have raced at Kells in Co Meath.
Guy Martin (Hydrex Honda) pictured here in 2009, is one of the many star names to have raced at Kells in Co Meath.
Increased insurance costs have led to the cancellation of a second Irish National road race in less than a week following confirmation that the Kells meeting has been called off.

Originally pencilled in for June 18, the Co Meath race has fallen victim to the soaring insurance premiums that have placed clubs under a heavy financial strain in 2017.

The News Letter exclusively revealed last month that drastically hiked costs had raised a red flag over the future of Irish National road racing. Sadly, two races have been axed from the calendar since our story was published on January 12.

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At the weekend, we revealed how the Loughshinny Club had been forced to pull the plug on plans for the popular Killalane meeting in North County Dublin to focus on running the Skerries 100 in July.

The club said it was left with no alternative following a ‘100 per-cent increase in the cost of insurance.’ With Kells also falling by the wayside, only three Irish road races will now take place in the Republic of Ireland this season.

A statement issued by the Kells Club said: “Due to the high cost in insurance we regret to announce that it is not viable for Kells to run in 2017. We are looking forward to running it in 2018.”

Kells returned to the calendar in 2014 after a two-year absence in the wake of financial struggles and although the organisers have stated their intention of running the race again next year, the spectre of crippling insurance premiums has cast a dark cloud over the sport’s future.

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Only six Irish National races are scheduled to take place in 2017, with the Tandragee 100, Cookstown 100 and Armoy in the North and the Skerries 100, Walderstown and Faugheen 50 meetings in the South.

In November, the Mid Antrim 150 was called off after returning last year for the first time since 2013. Club chairman Jack Agnew cited a lack of finances after poor weather blighted the Clough race last April, resulting in poor attendance figures. The extra cash required this year towards insurance was a significant additional cost the club was unable to meet.

Road racing clubs in Ulster have had to stump up an extra £4,500 this year to cover their insurance obligations, with the total cost amounting to approximately £20,000 for each race.

The international events, the North West 200 and Ulster Grand Prix, have also been hit hard, with the cost of insurance rising by £7,500.

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Ulster Grand Prix Clerk of the Course, Noel Johnston, said it would take almost £36,000 to provide cover for the famous Dundrod race in 2017 compared to a premium of only £6,000 back in 2002.

A catalogue of claims combined with a dwindling number of brokers willing to become involved has pushed clubs to breaking point.

Armoy Clerk of the Course, Bill Kennedy, told the News Letter last month he feared the sport at grassroots level could disappear altogether within the next three years.

“It certainly doesn’t bode well for the future of road racing,” he said.

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“The MCUI has managed to secure a commitment from a new firm for the next two years, but there has been a sharp rise in the overall cost and unfortunately the rising number of claims against clubs has had an impact on this.

“The end of National road racing in Ireland is no longer the unthinkable and it could very well happen sooner rather than later, within the next two to three years even.”

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