By Kyle White Belfast Newsletter
There is growing optimism the Armoy Road Races will return this year as the organisers press ahead will plans to run the event in the summer.
In 2020, the Cookstown 100 was the only Irish national meeting that went ahead after all other events were cancelled as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Road racing faces a similar situation this year with most races, including the North West 200 and Isle of Man TT, called off for the second successive season.
However, along with the Cookstown 100 – rescheduled until September once again – the Armoy club’s ‘Race of Legends’ is currently set to go ahead from July 30-31, when Clerk of the Course Bill Kennedy hopes local hero Michael Dunlop will stake his claim for a record ninth consecutive victory in the headline race.
Limited numbers of spectators will be permitted to return to outdoor sporting events in stage four of the exit plan, with larger numbers allowed in the fifth and final phase of the exit strategy for sport and leisure activities – which Kennedy hopes will coincide with the Armoy dates in just over four months’ time.
“It’s a changing situation every week but the only thing that will stop Armoy going ahead is if there’s a hike in coronavirus cases again,” Kennedy told the News Letter yesterday.
“But we’re still only in the last week in March, so we’ve basically got four full months and we’re taking optimism from the vaccine rollout.
“Our regulations go forward for approval on the second Wednesday in April and once they are passed and approved, then we will be looking to make a formal announcement.
“We’re carrying out risk assessments for spectators at the moment because there is no doubt that we will have restrictions in place for a long time,” he added.
“A return to outdoor sports is being encouraged and under stage four of the pathway, spectator numbers would be limited, but in stage five that would increase, so we have to wait and see how it pans out. But I think everything is looking good in order for us to be able to run a good race and there has been a massive interest, both from spectators and competitors.
Ballymoney man Dunlop is the biggest draw at his home race and Kennedy says he would be disappointed if the 19-time TT winner, who finished 11th on his debut at the Daytona 200 in the USA earlier this month, was not on the grid at Armoy in July.
“Racers are racers and I’m sure Michael would like a run out as well,” he said.
“I’d be disappointed if he wasn’t there but he went to Armoy in 2019 when he was carrying a lot of injuries [after a crash at the Southern 100] and won the big race for the eighth time, and I think that’s a record he would like to keep going.
“Once our regulations are approved in April, then we’ll get the entries open on the website and it will be all systems go.
“I’ve been saying all year that we had a good chance of running and I’m still optimistic.”