Despite concerns that budget cuts would finish the Cookstown 100, the race has not only pulled through, it has attracted the ‘top men on the grid’.
Last year the event was granted £12,000 funding from Tourism NI - but this year organisers are still waiting to hear whether they will get any government help for Cookstown’s biggest event.
But not one to give up, race organiser Kenny Loughrin has secured new sponsorship and is hoping that with local support, the team can make next weekend the best Cookstown 100 yet.
“It’s the top event in Cookstown at the present time and it’s growing from year-to-year and getting more popular,” he told the Mail. “I have managed to increase the sponsorship this year and we have at least two to three new sponsors, and good sponsors at that.
“We’re going and that’s the main thing.”
But grants and sponsors can only do so much according to Kenny.
“There’s people coming now not only from the rest of the UK but across Europe and we’re filling the B&Bs and hotels all round the place.
“So, at the end of the day I’m encouraging the local people to come out to support the race, buy a programme and keep the Cookstown 100 going.
“Hopefully it’ll be a good weekend as far as the weather is concerned,” he added, “and we’ll be able to maximise the sale of programmes which will pull us through this year.”
As for funding from Tourism NI, Kenny said he is holding out hope that they will come through for the event.
We have only three weeks to the race, but at the end of the day - even if the race is over - we’ll still maybe get money - Kenny Lougrhin
“As far as the Tourist Board is concerned, it’s a funny one,” he explained. “Just last week we got word that we had been successful as far as the application was concerned.
“But, as far as the budget is concerned we haven’t got money at this time.”
However, Mr Loughrin said the government department could still pay something towards the race.
“We have only three weeks to the race, but at the end of the day - even if the race is over - we’ll still maybe get money.”
And as for what’s in store on the day, Mr Loughrin said that as well as a crowd of up to 10,000 people ‘top runners’ such as Guy Martin and William and Michael Dunlop will be showing off their skills.
“It’s a big bonus for us again this year to get the top men on the grid,” he added.
Last year we were short of Guy Martin and Dean Harrison, but this year we’ve got the two of them lined up to come.”
He added: “It’s Guy Martin’s last year, he’s very popular on TV and everything else, so I would like to see him getting a win in Cookstown in his last year.”
In response to a query over whether the race would get any funding from government, Tourism NI told the Mail: “Whilst the Cookstown 100’s application reached the designated pass-mark we are not in a position to offer an award at this time due to budget constraints.
“Tourism NI continues to bid for additional budget and has offered the event support through a range of our marketing platforms.”