Belfast Telegraph

Fatalities now rare following advances in safety

By Claire Williamson

We have a need for speed, but there is the ever-present risk of danger.

Motor racing has claimed the lives of many racers over the years but despite this it remains one of the most popular sports in Northern Ireland.

No one else has died at the Todds Leap Ulster Rally before and deaths are now rare. These days spectators are more at risk than competitors.

In June, three people died during the Jim Clark Rally in the Scottish Borders.

Six others were injured, including two critically, after two accidents within two hours on a closed-road section.

The two most recent notable deaths in the rally world occurred outside the sport when racing champion Colin McRae (39) died in a helicopter crash near his home in Lanark in 2007.

Just six years before that in 2001, leading Northern Ireland rally driver Bertie Fisher and two of his children were also killed in a helicopter crash.

Many more people from Northern Ireland have been killed in motorcycle racing.

There have been 16 deaths at the North West 200 road race held in Portrush, including racing legend Robert Dunlop who died after his bike seized in 2008.

And there was overwhelming shock in the summer of 2000 when his brother Joey Dunlop, revered for his legendary achievements around the world, was killed while leading a race in Estonia.

This year, English rider Simon Andrews (29) died in hospital after he was involved in a serious crash at the North West 200.

Former motorcycle road racer Phillip McCallen said danger is "the last thing" on the competitor's minds.

He said: "The danger element really for a competitive person and potential winner, that's probably the last thing in the world that's in your mind.

"You honestly believe you are doing this because you are in control."

He added: "Deep down, to take on these sports, we all know accidents can happen."

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