The future of road racing in Northern Ireland 'limited' due to rising costs, says Bill Kennedy as former clerk of the course at Armoy believes legislation change to charge entry fees is now needed

A former clerk of the course at Armoy Road Races believes the future road racing in Northern Ireland is "limited" due to rising costs.
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Bill Kennedy made the comments after it was confirmed that the Ulster Grand Prix has been cancelled for a fifth consecutive year.

The event, last held in 2019, had been tentatively pencilled in to run over two days from August 2-3.

However, in a statement on Monday night (January 8), the Dundrod and District Motor Club confirmed the historic race meeting would not take place this year.

Bill Kennedy believes the future of road racing in Northern Ireland is 'limited' due to rising costsBill Kennedy believes the future of road racing in Northern Ireland is 'limited' due to rising costs
Bill Kennedy believes the future of road racing in Northern Ireland is 'limited' due to rising costs

“It is with regret that the Dundrod and District Motorcycle Club must announce the Ulster Grand Prix will not take place during 2024,” the statement read.

“Despite recent positive negotiations with stakeholders of the event, the club has been left with no choice but to take this course of action given motorcycle sport's ongoing insurance issues and a lack of sufficient time to find a solution to these challenges.

“The DDMC remains committed to reviving the Ulster Grand Prix and will continue to work towards achieving that goal.”

Mr Kennedy, who is still heavily involved with the races in Armoy despite stepping down as clerk in 2022, outlined that rising costs and the COVID-19 pandemic have had a serious impact on the future of the sport.

He said: "Everyone can see that races have been diminished in recent years over costs.

"It isn't the 70's or 80's any more when you can promote a race with minimal costs as facilities have improved, as well as health and safety procedures.

"The costs have increased dramatically but it's not only insurance, you have hardware, medical and other outlays which have risen astronomically.

"Organisers are probably thinking 'do we take a risk by putting on a race' and spending a lot of money in the hope that there's no bad weather.

"COVID has changed a lot of things - not just for us locally - but across the world. However, we've lost a lot of road races locally since then and it's only really Cookstown, the North West 200 and Armoy that's left which is sad and unfortunate.

"I would honestly say the future of road racing is limited."

However, Mr Kennedy thinks the attitude of the sport being free-to-view for spectators needs to be changed in order to generate more income.

"There’s still a big, big following for road racing and there are riders who enjoy the thrill and adrenaline of competing which will never change,” he added.

"Road racing brings great revenue into Northern Ireland but the powers-at-be have a great opportunity to change the law to allow organisers to charge entry fees for races.

"This would allow the organisers to not solely make money for profit, but to raise enough enough cash to carry them through for the next year.

"If that law was amended it would be a massive boost for the road racing community.

"Organisers provide hot and cold water, parking, grandstands, print programmes and a host of other things, but the concept that spectators should then watch for free needs to be addressed.”