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Grieving fiancée of John Donnan in call for increased safety roadracing measures

The fiancée of a motorcycle roadracer killed in a 115mph smash has said safety must to be improved.

Amelia Fowles (34), whose partner of seven years John Donnan died during the 2007 Tandragee 100 event, does not want the sport banned but called for better funding and professional advice to make circuits safer.

The lifelong fan of motorcycle racing spoke after Ulster’s top coroner raised serious concerns about the future of roadracing.

“I can understand his comments and if I wasn’t a lover of the sport and a follower of the sport I would agree. I don’t want to see the sport stopped but I agree that it has to be made safer,” Ms Fowles told the Belfast Telegraph.

Mr Donnan (42) was killed during the Supersport 600 race. He had 20 years’ competition experience, was a former Irish Superbike Champion and had run his own roadracing team. He crashed at a chicane near the start/finish area of the race while trying to avoid another competitor. He went

hurtling through the air at 115mph when his bike was catapulted into the nearby paddock area and narrowly avoided hitting a number of team officials and spectators.

In January an inquest found that Mr Donnan’s death was “avoidable” and Coroner John Lecky criticised safety on the north Armagh course.

“We have reached a situation where we have these totally professional, highly financed teams and they are operating in an environment that is set up by enthusiasts and amateurs without any, it seems to me, professional guidance,” Mr Lecky told the court.

“I would have thought that someone like a consultant engineer with the use of a computer would design a chicane. As you know and as I know, it doesn't happen.”

Speaking from her motorcycle shop in Co Down, Ms Fowles said: “They (clubs) should get help from the Government without question. The sport would benefit in the long run.

“There may have to be certain areas where spectators are not allowed. Where road racing is concerned some people stand in places where it is clean mad, where it’s stupid to stand.

“If everyone who goes to a race paid for the programme or entry fee rather than climbing across fields then the clubs would have more money to improve safety. They could get a grandstand and set it back from the road but make it high so that people can see.”

She added: “The riders know the risks and do as much as they can to protect themselves.

“I don’t think it should come to an end but the sport needs to be looked at as a whole to help the clubs and riders. There are things that you can do to make it safer but you’ll never make any high-speed sport risk-free.”

Twelve months after Mr Donnan died, Lusk rider Martin Finnegan was also killed at the Tandragee 100.

Earlier this year race officials announced that the event was not going ahead during 2010. They cited poor economic conditions as the reasons behind their decision.

Despite her loss Ms Fowles has insisted roadracing not be axed.

She said: “After John died it was very difficult but I threw myself back into it and found it a great help being around lots of people involved in the sport.

“At no stage did I ever think it wasn’t worth it. John would have wanted the race to go on.

“I wouldn’t like to see the end but improvements have to be made.

“Roadracing is a well-followed sport but it gets an awful lot of bad coverage because of the number of deaths but there are so many other things out there causing deaths that don’t get such bad publicity.”

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