Belfast Telegraph

Manx Grand Prix: Modest, popular rider Stephen 'Jack' McIlvenna claimed by the toughest circuit in racing

By Roy Harris

A skilled competitor and well- known on the Irish motorcycling scene, Stephen 'Jack' McIlvenna first took part in the Manx Grand Prix in 2005.

Yesterday, the same event took his life.

Stephen was one of a number of Irish competitors who made the short journey across to the Isle of Man to take on the toughest test in road racing and his death will affect not only those competitors, but many throughout the whole motorcycle racing community.

The 39-year-old Randalstown racer died after an incident on a fast section of the 37-mile circuit known as the Mountain Mile. He had been taking part in the qualifying session for Junior and Senior machines on his 600cc Yamaha and had already completed two laps of the course.

The fatal crash that claimed his life happened on what 11-time TT winner racer Phillip McCallen described as "one of the fastest parts of the course where riders are flat out in sixth gear".

Stephen had been at the Isle of Man races on many occasions. The year after finishing fourth on his debut in the the Senior Newcomers race, he finished 10th and 12th in the Manx Senior and Junior events.

He returned in 2009 to win the prestigious Junior Manx Grand Prix, the pinnacle of his road racing career.

Randalstown at the time was bedecked in congratulations banners after his success.

Having competed in the 2010 TT, Stephen then decided to give the island a miss, mainly for financial reasons, only returning this year to the Manx after a four-year absence.

Never one to be blessed with major sponsors throughout his career, Stephen turned up at the majority of Irish road races without any fuss or fanfare, entertaining the many spectators who line the hedgerows, just for his love of the sport.

As of yet there is no indication as to what went wrong and an investigation into the circumstances is under way.

A statement from the Manx Motor Cycle Club said members wished to pass on their deepest sympathies to Stephen's family and friends.

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