AT a time when national road racing is struggling to keep its head above water, the thriving Armoy ‘Race of Legends’ appears to be bucking a depressing trend.
The global economic downturn continues to bite deep with damaging effects on the sport at domestic level.
Reduced spectator attendances coupled with depleted grids – as witnessed at the Mid-Antrim 150 at the weekend – are the by-products of a merciless recession.
A string of national races in the south have been cancelled due to financial shortfalls, with only three confirmed to take place this summer – Skerries, Walderstown and Killalane. In stark contrast, the Armoy meeting - officially launched last Wednesday in Portballintrae – appears to be going from strength to strength.
Since its inception in 2009, the ‘Race of Legends’ – which celebrates the legacy of the fabled Armoy Armada – has quickly grown into one of the country’s top races, showcasing stunning action watched by huge crowds and attracting some of the sport’s greatest exponents.
Among the guests were Isle of Man TT stars William Dunlop and Ryan Farquhar, while Tyco Suzuki’s Guy Martin – one of motorcycling’s biggest names – is expected to return to Armoy next month to continue his love affair with the event.
Farquhar said: “I enjoyed the course more before they put in the chicane at the end of the start/finish straight because it used to be one of the fastest corners in road racing, but it’s still a good circuit and has a bit of everything. I really enjoy the event and I’ll be out in five races again.”
Michael Dunlop, last year’s man of the meeting, will also return to defend his crown in the Superbike and Supersport classes on July 27-28.
“Armoy was good last year and I didn’t make the best of starts in some of the races, so it meant I had to come through but it made for good racing for the spectators,” Michael said.
“That’s what the fans want to see – good, close racing with plenty of passing and it’s nice to try and put on a show.”
Lisburn’s Michael Pearson, plus North Antrim men Paul Robinson and Sam Dunlop will also be on the grid next month.
An impressive prize fund of almost £16,000 is up for grabs thanks to Armoy’s loyal band of sponsors, including title backer River Ridge Recycling.
Bill Kennedy, the Clerk of the Course, said he expects to confirm further leading names over the next month.
“Although we are one of the youngest national road races, we pride ourselves in our road racing history, which goes back many years to the Armoy Armada and I’m delighted that our local riders are supporting our event,” said Kennedy.
“We are hoping for many more entries before the closing date on Monday, July 2 and with a giant prize fund of £15,880, without a doubt it will be one of the best national road races in Ireland!”
Roads close for practice at 2.30pm on Friday, July 27 and at 10am on race day, Saturday, July 28, for a 12-race programme.