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How hard is it to run an Irish National Road Race?

Road race organisers in Ireland breathe a hefty sigh of relief if they don’t lose money at the end of an event. To put on a two-day show in the Emerald Isle costs the business end of £80,000, there is little or no gate money and if it rains, which it does in Ireland, then it’s disaster.

How hard is it to run an Irish road race in the current economic climate? When the 2017 calendar was announced it was known the Mid-Antrim 150 would not run, but there is a planned return for 2018.

When the club organised the first race of this year back in April it was dogged by horrendous rain prior to and during practice which resulted in the green field paddock being turned into a quagmire with transporters, vans and catering vehicles having to be towed into the field before a wheel was turned - and then towed out again after racing; the local tractor driver enjoying a good pay day.


The event still ran with huge co-operation from competitors, who basically had to carry their machines from the paddock to the track and  the weather resulted in a disappointing attendance, despite being the first road race of the season.

Poor programme sales, the lifeline of the majority of clubs running events, left the club out of pocket and the result was 2017 will not happen as they looks to replenish the coffers ahead of 2018.

Two other scheduled national road race in the south of Ireland, Cork and Killalane, were cancelled. Cork for financial reasons and Killalane because of an alleged dispute with Motorcycling Ireland, the southern governing body.

Organising a national road race is no mean feat with numerous hoops to jump through. The tracks are every day public roads closed on Friday or Saturday for roughly nine hours of practice and qualifying, then the following day for another nine hours of racing, plus it takes weeks of circuit preparation. Within that race area you have schools and people wishing to go about their business.

Jack Agnew of the Mid Antrim Club told BSN, “We have a primary school on our circuit in Clough and we want to ensure as little disruption as possible. Then you have to talk to potential event or race sponsors, to farmers for the use of their land for the paddock, car parks and movement of their animals, the erection of grandstands etc.

“Health and safety plays a big part of any road race and we have to negotiate with farmers and residents to maybe remove part of their hedges and fencing to allow safety precautions to be implemented as per the MCUI (UC) course certificate and get local councils to clear the grandstands erected as safe to use before a spectator is allowed onto them; we have a choice, either comply or the races do not run.”

If you lived within the boundaries of a road race or owned the field used for the paddock, car park, grandstand etc would you like it turned from a green field into a sea of mud (worst case scenario), or if you were a working parent would you like to have to take a day off work to child mind with your school closed for a motorbike race, or have your property invaded two days a year by thousands of spectators tramping through your fields, over hedges, making holes in hedges to get a better view?

Not every resident is a road race fan and while a minority,  of spectators but not genuine fans, have no regard for other people’s property or crops in fields. They are people the clubs could well do without.

The organising clubs do have excellent working relationships with the majority of local residents and comprises are reached, but like everything in life there is always one who will be stubborn and do everything in their power to be as awkward as possible to disrupt the organisation of an event.


To organise a national road race is expensive and time consuming. Somewhere in the region of £80,000 is required when you pay for insurance, medical cover or grandstand materials etc. all before a race takes place, therefore bad weather + poor attendance + poor income = financial failure – no race can afford to run at a loss.

Bearing in mind that these events are ran by amateur clubs with many club members working and having to take leave and holidays to help put the event on.

A road race is a multi-personnel event requiring road marshals, flag marshals, race officials, commentators, first aid cover, doctors, hospitality, communications and club workers to prepare the circuit and -just as importantly - put it back again after the race. And remember these people are all volunteers.
The North Armagh Club who won a prestigious Queens Award for Voluntary Service for their co-ordination of the 500 plus volunteers required to run the 2016 Tandragee 100 road race – a real shot in the arm for everyone involved.

The Irish National Road Race calendar for 2017 looks like this:


21st-22nd April – Tandragee 100
28th-29th April – Cookstown 100
17th-18th June – Kells Road Races
30th June-1st July – Skerries
8th-9th July – Walderstown
22nd-23rd July – Faugheen
28th-29th July – Armoy Race of Legends
9th-10th September - Killalane

Will they all run? We hope and that spectators will flock to the venues to watch the ‘gladiators’ dice between the hedges free of charge if they so wish. They don’t have to buy a programme, nor is there any official entrance fee.

The biggest problem to running a road race, other than the financial, is undoubtedly the weather, you can arrange all the dates you want, but there is no guarantee that you will have a dry day – if you have it is a bonus. Most clubs will be relieved to break even from a road race and if a profit is made it all goes towards next year.

To keep national road racing alive and flourishing in Ireland fans must be prepared to put their hand in their pocket and purchase a programme mostly priced at £10 or €10. Reasonable enough for the day’s   spectacular entertainment.
It is no longer a case of, ‘If competitors still want to race the roads clubs will organise events for them’. It is now clubs asking themselves, ‘Can we run this event without losing any money?’

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