Armoy to remember motorcycling heroes in 2019 road races
The 2019 Bayview Hotel Armoy Road Races was launched in Portballintrae yesterday on the 40th anniversary of the death of Frank Kennedy, one of the members of the much admired Armoy Armada.
The popular rider passed away as the result of injuries received in an accident during the fateful 1979 North West 200.
In honour of Kennedy, Bike Week, which runs from Saturday, July 20 until Sunday, July 21, will have a commemorative programme of his racing highlights, while his brother, Bill Kennedy MBE, who is also Clerk of the Course and one of the driving forces behind Armoy Road Races, will sponsor a new Senior Classic race.
The Armoy Armada was formed in 1977 consisting of Frank, Mervyn Robinson, Joey and Jim Dunlop.
The exploits of this quartet of road racers from the quiet, tranquil surroundings of the Co Antrim village became an integral part of arguably the best period of Irish road racing as they battled with their Co Down rivals Ray McCullough, Brian Reid, Trevor Steele and Ian McGregor, the Dromara Destroyers, around the roads of Ireland.
The Golden Era, as it became known by many enthusiasts, and the Armoy boy's achievements had a major influence in the formation of Armoy Motorcycle Road Racing Club in 2008 with the intention of holding a road race in the home town of the legendary Armoy Armada - hence the Race of Legends.
Bill Kennedy said: "It's 40 years since my brother Frank died and I just couldn't let this year go by without marking it.
"I went to many of the road races with Frank where I would have helped out with his bike and on the very rare occasion would have raced myself.
"Frank and the rest of the boys in the Armoy Armada created something extremely special in those days.
"At the launch and over the last week of July we will remember their acts of commitment, dedication, camaraderie and talent - it is those qualities that have confirmed them as legends in this sport and it is that which Armoy Road Races are built on."
A discussion panel featuring Brian Reid, Trevor Steele, George Farlow, Paul Jordan, Neil Kernohan and Adam McLean, chaired by Geoff McMullan and Phillip McCallen, provided the afternoon's entertainment.
A year ago, Jordan won one of the closest finishes ever at Armoy, a miniscule 0.007sec ahead of McLean in the Friday's Supersport race.
Undoubtedly the club would hope for some of the best road racing of the year at what is arguably the best national road race of the year, with riders and fans travelling from around the world to visit the most picturesque circuit on the calendar.
Kennedy added: "I implore all the fans to make their way to Armoy, as only there will you find the heartbeat of road racing, and as we remember those Armoy Armada members, including my brother Frank, you'll also find today's road racers and their passion, commitment and dedication - we must support them."
The only surviving member of the Armoy Armada, Jim Dunlop, was in attendance at yesterday's lunch, while it is another Dunlop, Michael, who currently holds the lap record for the 3.008mile Armoy Circuit.
Michael's record time sits at 106.812mph, while he has also won the last seven Bayview Hotel Race of Legends in succession.
The big question on everyone's lips is will he attempt to make it eight in a row come July 27?