Neil Kernohan fears for future of Irish road racing as uncertainty remains

Irish road racing stalwart Neil Kernohan admits the future of the sport appears bleak as he gears up for his home meeting this weekend at Armoy.
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Only the Cookstown 100 and North West 200 have taken place this year in Northern Ireland, with the Tandragee 100 and Ulster Grand Prix among the events cancelled.

No national road racing or short circuit meetings were held in the Republic of Ireland this season due to the unavailability of insurance – an issue that almost wiped out the motorcycle racing calendar in Northern Ireland until a last-minute deal was reached by the sport’s governing body, the MCUI Ulster Centre.

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Save for a major financial contribution to the North West 200’s £140,000 insurance commitment from Co Tyrone businessman Derek Keys, the north coast road race would also have been a non-starter this year, according to event chief Mervyn Whyte.

Neil Kernohan was a winner in the Lightweight 250 race at the Ulster Grand Prix in 2019Neil Kernohan was a winner in the Lightweight 250 race at the Ulster Grand Prix in 2019
Neil Kernohan was a winner in the Lightweight 250 race at the Ulster Grand Prix in 2019

Ballymena man Kernohan is a dyed-in-the-wool Irish road racer with little interest in competing on purpose-built short circuits.

However, with limited opportunities to race on the Irish roads, Kernohan admits he may be forced into a rethink over his plans for 2024.

“It’s a sad situation and nobody knows what the future is for Irish road racing,” he said.

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“I’m dedicated to road racing and I’m not really interested in anything else. You do wonder where the future of the sport lies because we’ve no racing in the south this year and it’s got to a point where we have two national road races this year.

“I honestly don’t know what I would do if there was no more Irish national road racing. You would just have to look further afield and hope that the likes of Scarborough was still running.”

Kernohan says it is imperative that any proposals for next year are communicated in a timely fashion to give competitors the best possible chance to firm up their plans.

“Everybody probably needs to know by December at the latest what is happening for next year,” he said.

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“We need to plan budgets and work out what classes we’re riding in, what bikes we’re building – it’s no use announcing that a race is going ahead a month beforehand.

“I hope the MCUI have learned from their mistakes and that they can try and get it sorted out properly.”