The abandonment of Saturday’s Mid-Antrim 150 Road Races at Clough may have severe repercussions for the future of an event just getting back on its feet after not taking place in 2009 due to an internal dispute within the club.
The meeting was struck by inclement weather conditions last year that turned the paddock area into a bog although racing went ahead with Ryan Farquhar scoring five wins.
There was also a dispute between organisers and the Dunlop brothers, William and Michael, that saw them boycott the meeting.
On Saturday morning officials were greeted by an apparently deliberate oil spillage around parts of the three-mile circuit that led to the abandonment of the meeting despite efforts by club officials, marshals and competitors — using detergent, power washers and brushes — to try and remove the problem.
Farquhar, one of those adding his weight to the clean up operation, said: “It would appear that the oil had been deposited on what are virtually our racing lines, so it would appear that whoever did it knew what they were at.
“It was a real shame for the organising club who have pumped an awful lot of time, effort and money into this event. I was completely fed up.
“It is a real disappointment that the meeting had to be abandoned. I was up for racing, but some of the other competitors were in two minds and others simply said they were not going to race.”
Clerk of the Course Jack Agnew added: “We did our best to run the meeting, but in the interests of safety I was not prepared to put riders’ lives at risk.
“It is a real blow for all those people who have contributed to the event — we as a club are determined to bounce back and run the race again next year.”
The PSNI have started an investigation into the incident.
To run a national road race costs in the region of £80,000-£100,000 and although the Mid Antrim had a successful practice and qualifying session on Friday evening with competitor entry fees already collected, programmes sold, and sponsorship and advertising finance gathered, there may still be financial implications although this may not be as big a burden as anticipated.
However despite the club having every intention of running the race again in 2012 there is always the threat that the same thing could happen all over again and spectators who travelled from near and far may think twice before returning next year.