Major Changes in 2020!

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Major Changes in 2020! The noise of two locals racing each other around the country roads near Upperlands was enough to get a young John Dillon hooked on motorcycling. Early memories of road racing for john, are standing at the Ballysally roundabout watching his Hero Joey Dunlop in action, along with Richard Britton and Adrian Archibald. Little did anyone know that this young motorcycle enthusiast would in later years, would change the future of Irish road racing for the better! From marshalling at Aghadowey as a teenager, Dillon always had road racing at his heart, and following advice from a close friend, Caroline Sterling, he, in his own admission, ‘Foolishly agreed ‘to attend a club meeting of the C&DMCC, the date was Sept 2013! and for some unknown reason, has been there since! Over the past decade, it has been widely known, that road racing has been in a decline, but not much seemed to be getting done to improve the situation. One of the biggest problems was, as in many cases, Finance! or as one would say, ‘the lack of it!’ For a lifetime, National Road racing was practically a ‘Free Show’ for many spectators, and to try and educate spectators, that it costs thousands of pounds to put on a road race, would continue to fall on deaf ears. Unfortunately, the idea of charging at road ends should have been instigated by the Governing body, when the Ulster Grand Prix got an act of Parliament passed, to allow spectators to be charged to spectate at the Prix! This was back in the 70s Following his promotion to the chairperson in 2016, John has worked effortlessly in the background, to try for what’s best for both the club and the competitors, known for speaking his mind, and maybe not making many friends at the same time, despite this, John believes, that, to go forward, ideas have to be discussed in a manner, that, it should be for the better of the sport, and not a personal matter! Come 2020, and with the pandemic causing a lot of problems worldwide, new laws have been enforced at various sporting events, with Motorcycling suffering big time. When the Pandemic was starting to kick in, John, brought it to the attention of the Cookstown & District Directors, that, it might be a good idea, to cancel our April date, and postpone until September!, This turned out to be a decisive move, because, the closing date for ‘Road Closures” was only a few days away, Thankfully, Papers were submitted within the given time, and Cookstown now had more time to plan the event. With lockdown in force, John started working behind the scenes, and brought a startling new idea to the Club directors; Closed Event, ‘Entry via Wristband/Programme only!’ As you can expect, the fellow directors were sceptical about this and thought it too risky, however, when John produced his homework, with figures and other aspects in relation to Management of the event, The fellow directors began to see the broader picture, and agreed, yes, this is the way forward, and has been said by many since “Why did no one think of this before? “Hindsight is a wonderful thing! After agreeing to the new way forward, John then took on, what would be a massive task, to planning the event. Unknown to many at the time, John worked hard, spent a lot of time with various officials from the local Council to Officials in the Northern Ireland Executive, Chief Scientific, and Medical Officials, getting, and putting the necessary procedures in place, in order to (Try) and run the 2020 Cookstown 100. When I say ‘Try’ to run the Cookstown 100, In the months running up to the event, members of the Governing body were ‘NOT in Favour’ of allowing the event to go ahead! Thankfully, John or ‘JD’ as we call him, stuck his ground, and kept in touch with the necessary Governing bodies, with rules changing on a daily basis, the Club had to be working within the guidelines set out by the Government. I will go as far to say, like him or loathe him, but John Dillon, was the person, who not only stood his ground, but also put his neck on the line, days, and nights of hard toil, with very little help from anyone (Grief was probably a more appropriate word!), just to ensure that the 2020 KDM Hire Cookstown would go ahead. Thankfully, come 10//11th Classic Rider takes Man of meeting awardsept, and everything went according to plan, it was a completely new ball game for everyone, for spectators, a new online booking system was put in place, simple, but effective, social distancing for everyone, and limited numbers. Etc. In 2020, the Cookstown 100 was the ONLY road race to be run! something John is, and rightly so, very proud of! The club later picked up a prestigious award at the annual Cornmarket Awards, and more importantly, set the Template, for the future of Irish Road Racing, something that was witnessed in 2021. Thankfully, the same procedures were also in place for the 2021 event, and 2022 will be no different, reflecting over the past few years, in 2018, Attendance at the Cookstown 100 road races was mega, income, let’s say, wasn’t much to talk about, 2021, less than half of the spectators, that was there in 2018, income quadrupled! So, YES, Thanks to our Chairperson, John Dillon, for coming up with this Fantastic forward-thinking plan, Closed Event, Entry only with Wristband & Race Programme! In my mind, this format WILL be the saving grace for the future of Irish Road Racing