Belfast Telegraph

Dario Cecconi dies after horror crash at Tandragee: Arlene Foster offers sympathies

By Cate McCurry

The brother of an Italian motorcyclist who has died in hospital after a crash at the Tandragee 100 road race said that yesterday was the worst day of his life.

Experienced rider Dario Cecconi (38) was taken to hospital by police escort on Saturday after the two-bike crash during the Senior Support race of the Co Armagh event.

He regarded the Tandragee 100 as his racing 'home'.

It's understood his partner, La Francy Benvenuti, and brother Luca were flying to Northern Ireland yesterday to be at his hospital bedside.

The road racer was receiving treatment at Craigavon Area Hospital.

Cecconi crashed on the final lap on the approach to Bells Crossroads amid worsening weather conditions.

Luca posted on Facebook that for his family "it was the worst day of our lives".

"Unfortunately, Dario has lost the most important battle of his life," he wrote.

"The only thing that we want to share is that the doctors have told us that he hasn't had time to notice anything and that in these three days he didn't suffer."

He said Dario had died enjoying "one of his greatest passions, surrounded by people who love him in the place that he loves".

"We thank all but really everyone for the immense support you have given us," he added.

In a statement, the North Armagh Motorcycle and Car Club, which organises the Tandragee 100, said: "Dario was a much-loved competitor, who called the Tandragee 100 his 'home', did much to promote the Tandragee 100 across Europe and even had a tattoo of the Tandragee 100 course on his arm.

"Dario started racing for fun at track days in Tuscany on a 600cc Suzuki and at the end of 2009, he decided that road racing was what he wanted to concentrate on."

Dario set out on his first road race, Carpasio-Pratipiani, in June 2010.

When he first came to Tandragee in 2012 and was asked for his opinion of Irish road racing he replied: "I completely fell in love with the Irish road racing world!

"I like the riders, the courses, the spectators and everyone in and around the paddock.

"I come in my van, by myself, for about 45 hours only to travel 45 hours back home again and I love it.

"There is a special atmosphere we can find only there.

"No other tracks give us this thrill, and no other meetings give us the sense of being part of a family."

When asked why he loved racing, he had said: "When I race, I feel free - I do not think, just act or react.

"It's a sort of trance and it is absolutely amazing. I feel at home and calm when I have my helmet on and the visor down, it's hard to explain… everything is natural."

Earlier, the racer's partner took to social media to reveal that she believed there was "still hope" of a recovery.

She posted on Facebook that she and Luca were flying to Northern Ireland "on the only available flight with hope in our hearts to bring some news of improvement. You fight love."

Last night, tributes to the rider flowed onto his Facebook page.

David Nelson wrote: "He represented the very essence of our sport and what it meant to travel great distances just to be here. Rest in peace."

Levi Joy added: "RIP Dario Cecconi. The paddock won't be the same without you, thoughts and prayers with the family and you will be sadly missed."

A crowd-funding page set up to help the family had raised over £3,800 last night. David McWaters, who set up the page, said he was inspired to raise money for the road racer who he described as a "gentleman".

To donate go to:  justgiving.com/crowdfunding/david-mcwaters

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