Belfast Telegraph

Manx Grand Prix: 'Stephen had a very strong passion for motorbikes and he lost his life to the sport he loved'

By Nevin Farrell

A Randalstown racer who was killed at the Manx Grand Prix "lost his life to the sport he loved", a family friend said.

Stephen McIlvenna (39) died during a qualifying session on the Isle of Man on Tuesday evening.

The accident happened at a section of the course known as the Mountain Mile.

South Antrim DUP MLA Trevor Clarke knew Stephen for more than 30 years.

He said: "He was a quiet big fella, a gentleman."

Mr Clarke visited the family home in the Co Antrim town where Stephen lived with his father James. He is also survived by a sister, Julie Reid.

Mr Clarke said: "This is very sad news. My thoughts go out to his father and sister at this difficult time.

"I know the family very well. Stephen, who was known as 'Jack' to his friends, had a very strong passion for motorbikes, and unfortunately he lost his life to the sport he loved."

Mr Clarke added: "This is a big blow for the family. Stephen's father was a big follower of motorbikes. Stephen had been at the Ulster Grand Prix at Dundrod and popped in to see his family on Saturday before going off to the Isle of Man.

"I would ask the community to give prayerful support for his family."

The Manx Motorcycle Club said Mr McIlvenna, a painter and decorator, was an "experienced racer who first competed in the Manx Grand Prix in 2005".

He won the 2009 Junior Manx Grand Prix. He also competed in the TT Races in 2010.

The club said the Coroner of Inquests had been informed and an investigation into the circumstances of the accident was under way.

Clerk of the course Phil Taubman told the BBC Stephen was "one of a large number of fantastic Irish supporters of Manx road racing".

He said: "The Manx and the Irish have a great affinity for road racing and Stephen was one of those guys who was always there.

"He was a terrific and well experienced rider."

Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin said: "Stephen was an experienced rider who clearly loved the sport of motorbike racing. He was a regular competitor on the Isle of Man and his death is a tragedy. I extend my condolences to Stephen's family and friends. My thoughts are with them at this difficult time."

The latest motorsport tragedy comes days after Timothy Cathcart was killed at the Ulster Rally, the minister added.

Road racing commentator Liam Beckett also passed on his condolences to Mr McIlvenna's family and friends.

He said: "Like all involved in the road racing family I am very shocked and saddened. I love the sport, it is a great sport but also a very unforgiving sport; but all the people involved know the risks.

"It is like people who climb a mountain – there is a buzz when you get to the summit, but the people do it because they love it," he added.

"Stephen will be sadly missed in the road racing family, who are a special bunch."

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