Top newcomers Jamie Coward and Pierre Yves Bian set for Armoy Road Races as Adam McLean confirms return
High-profile newcomers Jamie Coward and Frenchman Pierre Yves Bian are among an impressive line-up for next month’s Bayview Hotel Armoy Road Races.
The popular Irish national meeting, which will take place on the challenging three-mile course in County Antrim from July 29-30, was officially launched in Portballintrae.
Coward was among the special guests along with Tobermore rider Adam McLean, Darryl Tweed from Ballymoney and Ballymena’s Neil Kernohan.
McLean missed the Isle of Man TT after parting company from the Cookstown-based McAdoo Racing team, but the 26-year-old will return on his own privately-funded Yamaha R6 at Armoy and is also set to compete in the Supertwin class.
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Guy Martin is entered in the Classic Superbike race along with Coward and Phil Crowe, who shone on his debut at Armoy last year.
Yorkshireman Coward – this year’s top privateer at the Isle of Man TT – will ride a Yamaha R6 in the Supersport, Open and ‘Race of Legends’ events, and has also entered the new Classic Superbike race on a Kawasaki ZXR750, which is the same machine he will ride at the Manx Grand Prix in August.
The KTS by Steadplan Racing rider had a best result of fifth in the second Supersport race at the TT and remains Yamaha’s fastest ever rider around the Mountain Course, lapping at 130.398mph in the opening Superbike race.
“It’s going to be busy from now until the Manx Grand Prix,” said Coward.
“I’ve wanted to do Armoy for a while and Bill Kennedy (Clerk of Course) has done a great job promoting the event and bringing the right riders.
“I haven’t done a small Irish road race since I had a massive crash at the Tandragee in 2013, but this should be fun and I’m looking forward to it.
“I didn’t bother bringing the big bike because I’m a newcomer and we’ll just stick with the Supersport bike and see how we get on.
“I’m also taking out the Kawasaki ZX750 for a run before the Manx Grand Prix, but it isn’t as much of a handful as my R1 Superstock bike and the power’s a lot easier,” Coward added.
“After Armoy we’ve got the Southern 100 and then it’s back to work for a few weeks before the Manx, so we’ll be kept busy over the summer.”
Top European road racer Yves Bian is an equally intriguing addition to the entry at Armoy.
A winner in the Supertwin class at the North West 200 in May after Richard Cooper was excluded from the results, Yves Bian caught the eye with an excellent fourth place in the Supertwin race at the TT on the VAS Engine Paton.
The current IRRC Supersport champion will ride a Honda CBR600RR alongside Ballymoney’s Darryl Tweed in the Wilson Craig Racing colours.
Yves Bian was drafted into Darren Gilpin’s team in a reshuffle following the departure of Yorkshire’s Joey Thompson, who parted company from the team after a disappointing TT.
“I am very grateful to Darren Gilpin for the opportunity to ride for this iconic team,” he said.
“I have followed the team for many years since I was a child, and now to be riding for them is just amazing.”
However, the man they will all have to beat is of course home hero and 21-time TT winner Michael Dunlop, who stole the show in 2021 with five victories and a new outright lap record.
Dunlop has won the feature ‘Race of Legends’ a record nine times in a row since his maiden triumph in 2011 and will be a hot favourite to add to that tally in a month’s time.
Clerk of the Course, Bill Kennedy MBE said: "Armoy Road Races, now in its 12th year, is indebted to the high calibre of riders and loyal fans who continue to support it year on year. I can’t believe that the races are only a few weeks away.
"This year, for some reason, the time has just flown by but with race entries now closed, and the programme going to print, we are well and truly into the final preparations.
“With entries from Austria, France - including rider Pierre Yves Bian, who won the Supertwins race at the NW200 - England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, the Isle of Man and locally, there is a very strong entry.
“This year we’ve added a Classic Superbike race for the first time. With local riders Darryl Tweed and Dennis Booth taking part, the rest of the riders are from England including Guy Martin, Jamie Coward and Philip Crowe so I’m looking forward to seeing how we get on with that, this year," he added.
"When I was at other races, I was also told that riders with a 750cc bike had nowhere to race, so that’s why we’ve added the race to the programme. It’ll take a year to establish, but the riders with a 750cc bike now have a race at Armoy.
“But today, this launch event, is a great platform to showcase how far we have come and to thank our many sponsors as without their financial help and commitment each year we would not be able to stage such an event."