A Markethill motorbike racer has warned that the possible cancellation of fixtures due to soaring insurance prices will cost the Armagh and wider economy thousands of pounds in lost revenue.
Adam Watt believes the best way to solve the problem in the long term is by charging spectators to attend races such as the Tandragee 100.
In the meantime, he says the government needs to step in with extra cash.
The Motorcycle Union of Ireland (MCUI) Ulster Centre has also launched a GoFundMe page and is asking fans to donate, in the hope that this year’s racing can still be salvaged.
To date, more than £85,400 of a £300,000 goal has been raised.
Adam has been racing for four years, mainly short circuits, but had been hoping to qualify for road racing this year.
His uncle Kenny McCrea is a road racer and his brother Jonathan is the Ulster and Irish Road Race Champion in the Junior Support Class.
He said: “I have had a sponsor buy the bike for me. I am all ready to go and I know other people who have spent tens of thousands getting ready to race.”
However, for the moment at least, it looks like he and others won’t be able to race at all after the announcement earlier this month that events like the Cookstown 100, Tandragee 100, Armoy Race of Legends and Ulster Grand Prix are in jeopardy.
Public liability insurance for road racing, circuit racing and trial riding has risen from £170,000 to £410,000.
Adam added: “Whenever these races are on, they draw huge crowds and local businesses really benefit from them.
“Motorbike racing is one of the biggest earners in Northern Ireland
.”The North West 200 generates £16 million for the local economy.
“I think charging has to happen. True road racing fans would be supporting it. There isn’t a sport in the world where you could go and not pay.
“It’s not going to happen in time for this year. This year, the government needs to step in and help keep things going in the meantime.”
And he also warned that the cancellation of short circuit racing is preventing young people from taking up the sport.
Earlier this month, the organisers of the Tandragee 100 said they had been forced to cancel the event, partly due to the rise in insurance, but also because they had been “unable to gain commitment” that necessary resurfacing work would be carried out.
John Dillon, chairman of the MCUI (UC), said: “We cannot afford the premium hikes but nor can we afford to stop the events.
“If racing doesn’t take place in 2023, not only will it be nearly impossible to bring it back in 2024, we will also lose the new riders coming through the ranks.”
Newry and Armagh TUV spokesperson Keith Ratcliffe pointed out that the Tandragee 100 regularly attracts an international field in excess of 150 competitors each year.
“In addition to this, the road race attracts around 12,000 spectators to the Tandragee area,” he added. “These crowds provide a welcome boost to local businesses, particularly in the hospitality sector.”