Armoy Armada memories evoked at 'Race of Legends' launch

Pictured at the Armoy launch are (from left) William Dunlop, Gary Dunlop, David Wallace and Paul Robinson.
Pictured at the Armoy launch are (from left) William Dunlop, Gary Dunlop, David Wallace and Paul Robinson.

The official launch of the 2017 Roadside Kia Armoy Road Races had a nostalgic feel as the man behind the legendary 1977 motorcycling documentary, Road Racers, attended as a special guest.

Northern Ireland filmmaker David Wallace rekindled memories of a golden era for the sport as he recounted fascinating anecdotes of the time he spent working with the fabled Armoy Armada of Joey Dunlop, Frank Kennedy and Mervyn Robinson during the making of the film, which marks its 40th anniversary this year.

Armoy Clerk of the Course Bill Kennedy pictured with road racers including William, Dunlop, Adam McLean, Paul Jordan, Gary Dunlop, Dominic Herbertson, Christian Elkin, Paul Robinson and Neil Kernohan at the launch of the Armoy Road Races.

Armoy Clerk of the Course Bill Kennedy pictured with road racers including William, Dunlop, Adam McLean, Paul Jordan, Gary Dunlop, Dominic Herbertson, Christian Elkin, Paul Robinson and Neil Kernohan at the launch of the Armoy Road Races.

Four decades on, Road Racers still resonates with the passionate followers of ‘pure’ Irish road racing and sets the benchmark by which all other motorcycling documentaries are measured.

Wallace, a native of Dunloy, admits he is surprised that the film – which follows the trials and tribulations of the young Armada trio – still reverberates so profoundly today.

“I’m very surprised that any film, 40 years on, still resonates, but remember the reason it still resonates after all this time has got absolutely nothing to do with me,” Wallace said humbly.

“It’s got to do with what I was pointing the camera at and I just got very, very lucky. I thought I was making a film about three guys who probably wouldn’t even speak that much in the film because I’d always been told I’d be lucky to get anything out of them; but in fact in their own ways they got used to the camera, got used to being themselves and they made the film – we just placed the camera.”

As Ireland’s youngest road race, the Armoy ‘Race of Legends’– first staged in 2009 – feeds into the folklore of the Armoy Armada and serves as a fitting tribute to the village’s most famous sons.

Wallace, though, never thought he would see the day when a new road race would be held around the country roads of Armoy.

“I never thought they could do it, that they would get away with it. Road races are closing down, not opening up, so how did these guys do it?

“It’s a fantastic thing to have achieved so I have to say congratulations to Bill [Kennedy] and everyone who made it happen.”

Several riders were among the guests on Wednesday at Gracehill House in Stranocum, including last year’s man of the meeting William Dunlop and top Isle of Man TT newcomer Adam McLean, plus Paul Jordan, Christian Elkin, Gary Dunlop, Dominic Herbertson, Paul Robinson and Neil Kernohan - all confirmed for the popular Irish National race next month.

Senior TT winner Michael Dunlop, who has won the feature ‘Race of Legends’ for the past six years in succession, is yet to confirm his entry, but Clerk of the Course Bill Kennedy is hopeful he will be on the grid.

“William Dunlop was man of the meeting in 2016 and I’ve no doubt he will be keen to revisit his Armoy winning streak,” said Kennedy.

“As of yet, his brother, Michael, has yet to confirm his entry but the club is hopeful he will race on his home course come July.

“VIP corporate hospitality tickets are selling exceptionally well with folks from as far away as Wexford and Shropshire as well as Aberdeen en route. It’s getting down to those last few weeks with last minute riders’ entries, final preparations for setting up the course and then we’ll be ready for the best national race in Ireland.”

Bike Week commences on Sunday, July 23. Practice and the first two races are on Friday, July 28 with the main bill on Saturday, July 29.