Belfast Telegraph

Clerk of Course Bill has put Armoy races on world map

By Paul Lindsay

Many fans believe that today's Armoy Road Races was destined for success from the very outset, having a great marketing tool to build their foundations in the legendary Armoy Armada, which consisted of local racing icons Mervyn Robinson, Frank Kennedy and the Dunlop brothers, Jim and Joey.

The legacy that the oddly-match quartet left during that short three-year period from 1977 through to 1979, didn't just touch the small number of people living in the Moyle District or local road racing fans in Ireland.

What Joey Dunlop went on the achieve with his 26 TT victory and five world titles after the sad losses of his friends Mervyn and Frank, put Armoy, his hometown of Ballymoney and Northern Ireland firmly on the global sporting map.

Whether it be top class riders like the Dunlop brothers William and Michael - sons of the late great Robert Dunlop - or someone on an event organising committee, the apple never falls far from the tree in the sport of road racing.

The Armoy Motorcycle Road Racing Club is an organisation that, in seven short years, has gained the respect of leading teams and riders alike, who are never short on praise for the club's operational prowess, and, more importantly to the competitors, the quality of the 3.3-mile anti-clockwise Armoy circuit.

Bill Kennedy, who was recently awarded an MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List for services to local government and motorcycle racing, is the Clerk of Course at Armoy. The big man is a central figure in the infrastructure of the aptly named 'Race of Legends' and is the brother of the late Frank Kennedy.

Bill has been Clerk of Course at Armoy Motorcycle Road Racing Club since the inception of the Armoy Road Races in 2009, but with a selfless attitude, he gave praise to his dedicated team at Armoy, who he was keen to share his 'gong' with, when awarded last month.

Thrilled with the news of being on the Queen's Birthday Honours List, Bill said: "I was very surprised and delighted with the news of receiving an MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List.

"To be honest the news took a while to sink in at the time, but there is no doubt in my mind that this is just not for me, it's also for all of those people who have helped me along the way."

Speaking of his fellow club volunteers, he said: "We are a very young club, and this year's race is only our seventh, but it is through hard work, diligence and commitment - from all the club members - that we are, where we are today.

"I truly appreciate their help and support over the last number of years. Road racing is a great sport but without volunteers, clubs and dedicated road racers and teams we wouldn't have one."

Kennedy, a former Mayor of Ballymoney, went on to say: "It was a great privilege and pleasure to represent Ballymoney Borough Council as mayor in the final year, but again there are a lot of hard working people in local government who supported me throughout my time in local council."

The Armoy Race of Legends and its committee is, unquestionably, as well equipped in terms of business acumen as some of its local international rivals, and from the naked eye as a spectator, it's now a match for the high ranking Southern 100 and Scarborough events - never mind being regarded as Ireland's leading national event.

The 'mini international' as it has been dubbed, has also played a pivotal role in gaining the Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council increased tourism, which has received them acclaim from Councillor Michelle Knight-McQuillan.

As mayor of the borough, she said: "The Armoy Road Races generate a large amount interest in our beautiful Causeway Coast and Glens, especially with events happening throughout Bike Week, that keep people in the area, and that in turn feeds back into our local economy.

Speaking of this new global phenomenon on two-wheels, the mayor added: "This year, we have received enquires from all over the UK, Ireland, Europe, even reaching as far as New Zealand. The New Zealand guests are coming to Northern Ireland specifically for The Armoy Road Races, and re-arranged their original travel plans to make sure Northern Ireland was included."

Bill Kennedy and his team will be far too busy today working on their tight schedule, to think about gongs and tourism figures, but at a time when national road racing events are falling by the wayside - it's refreshing to see the Armoy event flourish in the heartland of the sport, as a fitting tribute to the legendary Armoy Armada.

Belfast Telegraph

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