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You need guts for NW200 road race, says MotoGP ace Eugene Laverty

By Claire McNeilly

Published 08/06/2016

Toomebridge native Eugene Laverty
Toomebridge native Eugene Laverty
Eugene Laverty having a tender moment with his wife of six months Pippa during the Monaco Grand Prix
Eugene Laverty in action
Eugene Laverty with his wife Pippa
Ryan Farquhar, with his wife Karen, recovering from his accident
Malachi Mitchell-Thomas, who tragically died at the North West 200

Eugene Laverty has spoken for the first time about his "great admiration" for road racers, adding that it takes "real guts" to propel powerful and potentially lethal motorbikes around courses such as the North West 200 and Isle of Man TT.

The MotoGP star, who has previously steered clear of the debate about the safety of road racing, gave his thoughts in the wake of a dark month for the sport that yielded three deaths and one serious injury.

Toomebridge native Laverty and his wife Pippa (27) were present at the North West 200 last month when promising 20-year-old English rider Malachi Mitchell-Thomas was tragically killed during a race. Two days earlier, Dungannon racer Ryan Farquhar (40) sustained serious injuries in another crash.

Less fortunate were 27-year-old Australian Dwight Beare and England's Paul Shoesmith (50), both of whom were killed at the TT last Saturday. And a MotoGP colleague of Laverty's - 24-year-old Spaniard Luis Salom - tragically died last Friday during practice for Sunday's Catalunya GP in Barcelona.

Laverty, who went on to compete in the Barcelona event, which was overshadowed by Salom's death, said: "I have great admiration for the courage of road racers. It takes real guts to ride tracks like the North West 200 and the Isle of Man TT."

The Aspar Ducati rider, a global star in what is regarded as the normally safer short-circuit version of motorcycle racing, where the competition is held in specially constructed, enclosed tracks, said he was a big fan of road racing and had been visiting the North West 200 since he was a young boy.

"I was really excited that my schedule allowed me to go this year," said Eugene, who lives in Monaco with Pippa, his wife of six months.

"It's such a well-organised event, and event director Mervyn Whyte and his team do a fantastic job.

"Unfortunately, there were a few serious crashes this year, most notably the late Malachi Mitchell-Thomas.

"I'd quickly become a fan of Malachi, and just the night before the race I'd said how great a character he was for the sport.

"That's the downside of the sport, but Malachi knew the risks and died doing what he loved.

"Our own Ryan Farquhar suffered a heavy fall and thankfully he is now on the road to recovery."

Laverty, who turned 30 last Friday, wore a special retro-green helmet designed in memory of a close family friend during the Catalunya race.

Eugene was named after Portglenone rider Eugene (Gene) McDonnell, who was tragically killed during the Junior Isle of Man TT race on June 4, 1986 - the day after Laverty and his twin brother Eamonn were born.

Just like his older brothers Michael and John and his father Mickey, Eugene grew up with a burning desire to race motorcycles, although he stayed off the roads.

Gene's brother Ciaran came up with the idea of the tribute helmet, and Eugene said it was "a great honour" to wear a replica of Gene's helmet during the Barcelona race.

Press Eye Northern Ireland - Thursday May 12 2016
North West 200 International Road Races Vauxhall Supertwin Race Mandatory credit - Pic by John McIlwaine Press Eye
Daniel Cooper leads Ryan Farquahar on lap two of the red flagged Supertwin Race
Press Eye Northern Ireland - Thursday May 12 2016 North West 200 International Road Races Vauxhall Supertwin Race Mandatory credit - Pic by John McIlwaine Press Eye Daniel Cooper leads Ryan Farquahar on lap two of the red flagged Supertwin Race
Alastair Seeley celebrates winning the opening Supersport race during Thurday's Supersport race at the North West 200. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
Press Eye - Northern Ireland - 12th May 2016 Vauxhall International North West 200. Christian Elkin makes his way over Primrose Hill during the Supertwins. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
Press Eye - Northern Ireland - 12th May 2016 Vauxhall International North West 200. Following a red flag during the Supertwin race, fire crews were called to Station Corner to deal with the incident. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
Press Eye - Northern Ireland - 12th May 2016 Vauxhall International North West 200. Ryan Farquhar lead at the start of lap 3 of the Supertwins race. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
Press Eye - Northern Ireland - 12th May 2016 Vauxhall International North West 200. Martin Jessopp pictured at Primrose Hill during the Supertwins. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
PACEMAKER BELFAST 12/05/2016 Alastair Seeley celebrates winning the opening Supersport race this evening with Ian Hutchinson 2nd and Martin jessops third during this evenings Supersport race at the North West 200. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 12th May 2016 Vauxhall International 2016 North West 200. Thursday racing. Race two. VAUXHALL Supertwin Race. Some seen from the paddock area as the race is red flagged due to a a fire close to the track. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 12th May 2016 Vauxhall International 2016 North West 200. Thursday racing. Race one. Actavo Events Supersport Race. Alastair Seeley wins with Ian Hutchinson in second and Martin Jessop in third. Alastair Seeley pictured with his girlfriend Danny Henry after winning is 16th race at the North West which has outdone the previous record held by Robert Dunlop. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 12/5/2016: Alastair Seeley's girlfriend, Danni had a nail biting time as she watched the last lap of the Supersport race with her boyfriend on his way to becoming the most successful North West 200 racer of al-time by taking his 16th win. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 12th May 2016 Vauxhall International 2016 North West 200. Thursday racing. Race one. Actavo Events Supersport Race. Alastair Seeley wins with Ian Hutchinson in second and Martin Jessop in third. Alastair Seeley pictured after winning is 16th race at the North West which has outdone the previous record held by Robert Dunlop. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 12th May 2016 Vauxhall International 2016 North West 200. Thursday racing. Race one. Actavo Events Supersport Race. Alastair Seeley wins with Ian Hutchinson in second and Martin Jessop in third. Alastair Seeley pictured after winning is 16th race at the North West which has outdone the previous record held by Robert Dunlop. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
DAVE KNEEN/PACEMAKER PRESS, BELFAST: 12/05/2016: Alastair Seeley leads the start of the opening Supersport race at the North West 200.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 12th May 2016 Vauxhall International 2016 North West 200. Thursday racing. Race one. Actavo Events Supersport Race. Alastair Seeley wins with Ian Hutchinson in second and Martin Jessop in third. Alastair Seeley(centre) pictured after winning is 16th race at the North West which has outdone the previous record held by Robert Dunlop. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland -12/05/2016. Picture by Dessie Loughery International North West 200 Supersport Race John McGuinness (Jackson Honda Racing Honda )
PACEMAKER BELFAST 12/05/2016 Alastair Seeley celebrates winning the opening Supersport race during this evenings Supersport race at the North West 200. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
@Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 12th May 2016 Mandatory Credit -Brian Little/Presseye Ian Hutchinson CameBPT Yamaha R6 leads William Dunlop over Black's Hill during Thursday's nights Actavo Events Supersport Race at the Vauxhall International North West 200 around the 'Triangle' circuit. Picture by Brian Little/Presseye
@Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 12th May 2016 Mandatory Credit -Brian Little/Presseye Alastair Seeley Gearlink Kawasaki leads Lee Johnston ECC/Burdens Triumph over Black's Hill during Thursday's nights Actavo Events Supersport Race at the Vauxhall International North West 200 around the 'Triangle' circuit. Picture by Brian Little/Presseye
Sailing to the International North West 200 with P&O Ferries - motorbike fans from across the UK and Europe arriving at Larne. Hundreds of motorbike enthusiasts are expected to make the journey over the next couple of days. May 2016
The biggest concentration of bikers have arrived in Belfast today, Thursday 12 May, when approximately 150 motorcyclists will start their engines and stream off the Stena Line, Cairnryan to Belfast service, forming a massive convoy to make their way to the North West 200 May 12, 2016 Belfast , Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye )
The biggest concentration of bikers have arrived in Belfast today, Thursday 12 May, when approximately 150 motorcyclists will start their engines and stream off the Stena Line, Cairnryan to Belfast service, forming a massive convoy to make their way to the North West 200 May 12, 2016 Belfast , Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye )
The biggest concentration of bikers have arrived in Belfast today, Thursday 12 May, when approximately 150 motorcyclists will start their engines and stream off the Stena Line, Cairnryan to Belfast service, forming a massive convoy to make their way to the North West 200 May 12, 2016 Belfast , Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye )
The biggest concentration of bikers have arrived in Belfast today, Thursday 12 May, when approximately 150 motorcyclists will start their engines and stream off the Stena Line, Cairnryan to Belfast service, forming a massive convoy to make their way to the North West 200 May 12, 2016 Belfast , Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye )
The biggest concentration of bikers have arrived in Belfast today, Thursday 12 May, when approximately 150 motorcyclists will start their engines and stream off the Stena Line, Cairnryan to Belfast service, forming a massive convoy to make their way to the North West 200 May 12, 2016 Belfast , Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye )
The biggest concentration of bikers have arrived in Belfast today, Thursday 12 May, when approximately 150 motorcyclists will start their engines and stream off the Stena Line, Cairnryan to Belfast service, forming a massive convoy to make their way to the North West 200 May 12, 2016 Belfast , Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye )
The biggest concentration of bikers have arrived in Belfast today, Thursday 12 May, when approximately 150 motorcyclists will start their engines and stream off the Stena Line, Cairnryan to Belfast service, forming a massive convoy to make their way to the North West 200 May 12, 2016 Belfast , Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye )
The biggest concentration of bikers have arrived in Belfast today, Thursday 12 May, when approximately 150 motorcyclists will start their engines and stream off the Stena Line, Cairnryan to Belfast service, forming a massive convoy to make their way to the North West 200 May 12, 2016 Belfast , Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye )
The biggest concentration of bikers have arrived in Belfast today, Thursday 12 May, when approximately 150 motorcyclists will start their engines and stream off the Stena Line, Cairnryan to Belfast service, forming a massive convoy to make their way to the North West 200 May 12, 2016 Belfast , Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye )
Miss North West 200 Chloe McMaster wins the competition in the paddock on Tuesday evening. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
Sailing to the International North West 200 with P&O Ferries - motorbike fans from across the UK and Europe arriving at Larne. Hundreds of motorbike enthusiasts are expected to make the journey over the next couple of days. May 2016
Vauxhall International North West 200. Danny Webb.
Chloe McMaster named Miss North West 200 for 2016.
Vauxhall International North West 200. Maria Costello on the grid along with her team.
Chloe McMaster named Miss North West 200 for 2016.
Ryan Farquhar.
Chloe McMaster named Miss North West 200 for 2016.
Press Eye - Northern Ireland - 12th May 2016 Vauxhall International North West 200. Michael Sweeney. Photographer - ©Matt Mackey / Press Eye
Press Eye - Northern Ireland - 12th May 2016 Vauxhall International North West 200. Maria Costello on the grid along with her team. Photographer - ©Matt Mackey / Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland -12/05/2016. Picture by Dessie Loughery International North West 200 Superstock Race Michael Dunlop (BMW )
Press Eye - Northern Ireland - 12th May 2016 Vauxhall International North West 200. Maria Costello. Photographer - ©Matt Mackey / Press Eye
@Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 12th May 2016 Mandatory Credit -Brian Little/Presseye Ryan Farquhar SGS/IEG/KMR Kawasaki at Church Corner during Thursday's Supertwin practice at the Vauxhall International North West 200 around the 'Triangle' circuit. Picture by Brian Little/Presseye
Press Eye - Northern Ireland - 12th May 2016 Vauxhall International North West 200. Michael Rutter in the Superstock practice at York Corner on Thursday morning. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
Press Eye - Northern Ireland - 12th May 2016 Vauxhall International North West 200. Donald Macfadyen in the Superstock practice at York Corner on Thursday morning. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 12/5/2016: NI Secretary of State Theresa Villiers and North Antrim MP Ian Paisley is shown round the Control Room of the Vauxhall International North West 200 by Event Director Mervyn Whyte during her visit to the race at Portrush today. Also included are John and Valerie Creighton and their daughter Rhonda who man the radios. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
Press Eye - Northern Ireland - 12th May 2016 ** NO IMAGE FEE ** Vauxhall International North West 200. Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Theresa Villiers visits the famous North West 200 course between Portrush and Portstewart and is given a tour of the grid by race director Mervyn Whyte. Photographer - ©Matt Mackey / Press Eye
Honda road races John McGuinness and Conor Cummins enjoy a day off at the North West 200 by taking at trip to the Giants Causeway.
Miss North West 200 Chloe McMaster is congratulated by third placed Hollie Hanson and runner up Shannon Henry after the competition in the paddock on Tuesday evening. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland -10/05/2016. Picture by Dessie Loughery International North West 200 Supertwin Race Jeremy McWilliams (SGS/IEG/KMR Kawasaki )
Press Eye - Northern Ireland - 10th May 2016 Vauxhall International North West 200 Jill McWilliams along with her husband Jeremy McWilliams who is racing. Photographer - ©Matt Mackey / Press Eye
Michael Rutter (Bathams/SMT Racing BMW ) during today's practices for the Vauxhall International North West 200, in Coleraine. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Michael Dunlop (BMW ) during practice race for the Vauxhall International North West 200, in Coleraine. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Michael Dunlop is all smiles after setting fattest Superbike time during the opening practice session for the Vauxhall International North West 200. Picture by Stephen Davison
William Dunlop on the grid during the opening practice session for the Vauxhall International North West 200 today. Picture by Stephen Davison
Ben Wilson ready for the off at the opening practice session for the Vauxhall International North West 200 grid. Picture by Stephen Davison
Hector Neill looks over the grid. Vauxhall International North West 200.
Chloe McMaster named Miss North West 200 for 2016.
Vauxhall International North West 200. Philip Neill
Ian Hutchinson makes his way through the paddock.
Vauxhall International North West 200. Ryan Farquhar.
North West 200 2016 Bruce Anstey
Vauxhall International North West 200. Ian Hutchinson makes his way to the grid.
Vauxhall International North West 200 Tuesday practice gets under way. William Dunlop. Press Eye - Northern Ireland - 10th May 2016 Photographer - ©Matt Mackey / Press Eye
Vauxhall International North West 200 Tuesday practice gets under way. William Dunlop. Press Eye - Northern Ireland - 10th May 2016 Photographer - ©Matt Mackey / Press Eye
North West 200 2016 Practice has begun at the Vauxhall International North West 200 around the high speed Triangle circuit. Picture by Brian Little/Presseye
Vauxhall International North West 200. Michael Dunlop. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
Vauxhall International North West 200 Tuesday practice gets under way. Danni Henry finance of Alastair Seeley. Photographer - ©Matt Mackey / Press Eye Press Eye - Northern Ireland - 10th May 2016
North West 200 2016 Practice has begun at the Vauxhall International North West 200 around the high speed Triangle circuit. Picture by Brian Little/Presseye
Vauxhall International North West 200 Tuesday practice gets under way. Conor Cummins Honda Photographer - ©Matt Mackey / Press Eye
Pacemaker Belfast 10-5-16 Vauxhall International North West 200 - 2016 Alastair Seeley (Gearlink Kawasaki Kawasaki )during today's practices for the Vauxhall International North West 200, in Coleraine. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Vauxhall International North West 200 Tuesday practice gets under way. Danni Henry along with finance Alastair Seeley. Photographer - ©Matt Mackey / Press Eye
Pacemaker Belfast 10-5-16 Vauxhall International North West 200 - 2016 Alastair Seeley (Gearlink Kawasaki Kawasaki )during today's practices for the Vauxhall International North West 200, in Coleraine. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Vauxhall International North West 200 Tuesday practice gets under way. Jamie Hamilton. Photographer - ©Matt Mackey / Press Eye
Pacemaker Belfast 10-5-16 Vauxhall International North West 200 - 2016 Lee Johnston (East Coast Construction/Burdens Triumph ) during today's practices for the Vauxhall International North West 200, in Coleraine. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Vauxhall International North West 200 Tuesday practice gets under way. Lee Johnston. Photographer - ©Matt Mackey / Press Eye
Pacemaker Belfast 10-5-16 Vauxhall International North West 200 - 2016 Lee Johnston (East Coast Construction/Burdens Triumph ) during today's practices for the Vauxhall International North West 200, in Coleraine. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Vauxhall International North West 200 Tuesday practice gets under way. John McGuinness. Photographer - ©Matt Mackey / Press Eye
Vauxhall International North West 200 Tuesday practice gets under way. Jeremy McWilliams and Michael Rutter. Photographer - ©Matt Mackey / Press Eye
Pacemaker Belfast 10-5-16 Vauxhall International North West 200 - 2016 James Hillier (Quattro Plant Muc-off Kawasaki Kawasaki ) during today's practices for the Vauxhall International North West 200, in Coleraine. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Vauxhall International North West 200 Tuesday practice gets under way. John McGuinness Photographer - ©Matt Mackey / Press Eye
Pacemaker Belfast 10-5-16 Vauxhall International North West 200 - 2016 Ian Hutchinson (Came BPT Yamaha Yamaha )during today's practices for the Vauxhall International North West 200, in Coleraine. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 10-5-16 Vauxhall International North West 200 - 2016 John McGuinness (Jackson Honda Racing Honda ) during today's practices for the Vauxhall International North West 200, in Coleraine. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Vauxhall International North West 200. Malachi Mitchell-Thomas. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
Vauxhall International North West 200 Tuesday practice gets under way. Danni Henry along with finance Alastair Seeley. Photographer - ©Matt Mackey / Press Eye
Pacemaker Belfast 10-5-16 Vauxhall International North West 200 - 2016 William Dunlop (CD/IC Racing/Caffrey International Yamaha ) during today's practices for the Vauxhall International North West 200, in Coleraine. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Vauxhall International North West 200 Tuesday practice gets under way. John McGuinness. Photographer - ©Matt Mackey / Press Eye
Pacemaker Belfast 10-5-16 Vauxhall International North West 200 - 2016 Dean Harrison (Silicone Engineering Kawasaki ) during today's practices for the Vauxhall International North West 200, in Coleraine. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press

Pippa, who was at the Spanish grid with Eugene, said they were still enjoying "married bliss" six months after a fairytale wedding at Dromoland Castle in Co Clare - but have yet to fit in their honeymoon, which is scheduled to take place a full year after they tied the knot.

"We've been on the road a lot and so far the only break we've had was in Portstewart during the North West 200," she said. "Our relationship has been better since we got married. Everything that happened leading up to the wedding was crazy but now that things have settled down we really feel like a unit."

By "everything that happened", Pippa means a horrifying 160mph smash during testing at Jerez, Spain, last November that left Eugene hospitalised with multiple injuries, including a broken wrist, dislocated shoulder and fractured collarbone, and threatened to jeopardise their December 7 nuptials.

Ultimately, the only casualty of the crash - which Eugene described as the worst of his career - was the honeymoon, which was put on the back burner while he underwent treatment.

And now Pippa has revealed that the couple, who were together for 10 years before they married, will finally get away to the Caribbean later this year.

"Eugene only gets time off in December when there's a testing ban so we've booked a week in St Lucia, which we're really looking forward to," said Durham native Pippa.

"We were meant to be going there at the end of last year, but then came the accident."

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