A leading Northern Ireland motorcyclist was fighting for his life last night after an accident in a race in the Czech Republic.
Ballygowan rider Michael Pearson was airlifted to hospital after a serious crash at the Horice road race.
It is understood the 37-year-old former Irish Superbike champion suffered injuries to his back as well as internal bleeding.
His spokesman said another rider had gone down at the first corner and taken Michael, who had earlier won the Supersport 600 race, with him into trees.
The accident happened hours after Simon Andrews (29) came off his bike during the North West 200 Superstock race on Saturday.
The crash occurred on the approach to Metropole Corner in Portrush on the fourth lap, with his machine bursting into flames.
Both men’s families were at their hospital bedsides last night.
Englishman Andrews was riding at the North West 200 for the Penz13.com BMW team when he had the third major crash of his career. He was airlifted to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast.
Footage of the crash was circulated on YouTube, although race organisers asked that it be removed out of consideration for Mr Andrews’ family.
The rider, from Evesham in Worcestershire, was badly hurt at the World Endurance Le Mans 24-Hour race last year while competing with the Honda TT Legends team. He also suffered a broken leg following a serious crash at Snetterton in 2011.
The racer took some time to recover from the Le Mans incident and had been delighted to secure a spot with the Penz13.com BMW Racing Team this year.
Speaking earlier this year, he said: “I’ve had some success with BMW already when I started on the roads earlier in my career.
“With the help and support of BMW I believe the team will give me a good competitive bike.”
Mr Andrews started in the sport at the age of 15 when his father bought him a trackday bike, which he raced at Mallory Park in Leicestershire.
He showed such promise that when he turned 16 he started racing a much larger 600cc bike.
His first big win came in 2004 at Mondello Park in Co Kildare.
In his first attempt at the North West 200 in 2011 he won fastest newcomer, and had been a popular racer here since.
A spokesman for the North West 200 said: “Simon Andrews’ family are at his bedside in the intensive care unit of the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast.
“He remains in a critical condition following his crash in the Superstock race at yesterday’s Vauxhall International North West 200.”
On Tuesday French rider Franck Petricola suffered serious injuries when he crashed during the closing minutes of the practice at Primrose Corner. No other bikes were involved in his accident. He received treatment at the scene before being removed to hospital.
Last night the 31-year-old’s condition was said to be improving.
North West 200 race director Mervyn White said safety bales at the side of the track saved his life.
“He came off at high speed at Primrose Corner, which is a high speed corner, 100mph-plus type of thing,” Mr White (left) said.
“He went into the bales at the side of the track, the safety bales, which are there to prevent major injuries. I would say it probably saved his life.”