Race of the South returns to Walderstown this summer
Thousands are expected to throng the roads of Walderstown, just outside Athlone, later this summer after it was confirmed that the Race of the South will go ahead for the first time since 2019.
The two-day motorbike racing event, running in Walderstown since 2000, will take place on July 9 and 10 next.
A delighted Michael Halpin, who is chairperson of Fore Motor Cycle Club, the organisers of the event, told the Westmeath Independent that everyone is excited about the return of the popular road races.
“Earlier this year we didn't know if we'd get running or not, so it's great to know now that it looks like everything is back to normal. Covid, thank God, is kind of behind us. It's not gone away but it's not stopping us. It's brilliant to see all the sporting events back,” he said.
While Michael admitted it's been “tough” to keep the club going with no events, he paid tribute to the dedicated members who have returned and are really gearing up for July.
“Everyone seems to be excited that the racing season is back and the championship is all go again,” he said.
“We'll have the top riders in Ireland at the moment (coming to Walderstown). It's part of the Irish Championship, so anyone looking for points will have to turn up to race. It's one of the most important fixtures of the calendar year,” Michael said, adding that riders love the course, and the good surface.
Local interest will focus on Damien Horan, Paul Fallon from Glasson, Thomas Molloy, Thomas Maxwell and Derek McGee from Mullingar.
From a spectator point of view, it's very a popular event too, attracting a crowd of over 5,000 to view the races each day.
“It's very popular because it's central, we get a good spectator crowd from Northern Ireland.
“Businesses do well out of it and Athlone does well in terms of accommodation. In 2019 and 2018 we had a crowd from Scotland and Wales over and they were very happy with the hospitality they got all around Athlone.
“It probably gives the area a boost more than people realise. We have about 5,000 or 6,000 spectators on an average day, some years more.”
It's a major undertaking for a voluntary group and costs around €100,000 to run each year, the costs met by sponsorship and fundraising. Insurance alone is €20,000 for the two days, said Michael.
In the meantime, there is plenty of work to be done to get ready for the race in the weeks ahead, and in the week leading up to it nine articulated lorry loads of barriers, bales and markings will be placed along the course.
“It's only around the corner. The first road race of the season is actually next weekend, and then it's one weekend after another the whole way through the summer.”
He thanked the local residents who are ready to assist the organisers. “They are always there to help us or get us anything we need.”
Roads in the area will close at 12.30pm on the Saturday of the event, and at 8am on the Sunday.