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For Northern Ireland and young men like tragic Malachi Mitchell-Thomas, racing is a way of life and, sadly, death

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 21/05/2016

Malachi Mitchell-Thomas
Malachi Mitchell-Thomas

Malachi Mitchell-Thomas, the young motorcycle racer killed at the North West 200 on this day last week, was not from Northern Ireland but the impact of his death was felt across the province.

That was partly due to the fact that he was only 20, partly because of his outgoing nature and partly because he seemed like an everyman son - the sort most parents would be glad to call their own.

Apart from his family, nowhere was his death more keenly felt than among the motorcycle racing fraternity - those who risk their lives on the bikes and those who flock to see them.

Motorcycle road racing is unlike nearly every other world-class sport in that the fans and riders really do relate to each other. Formula One racing drivers, with their multimillion-pound salaries, are as remote from their fans as Premier League footballers,

But motorcycle racers are men - and the very occasional woman - of the people. It is a sport where a young man like Malachi could dream of reaching the very top, even though he and his dad had to scrimp and save every penny to keep him on the road.

Ironically, he had just joined a local team, which was making things easier for him financially and as regards access to competitive bikes. Our interview with Rachel Burrows, the wife of the team manager, shows how this sport, almost uniquely, is a family affair.

Malachi stayed with the family and played with their children like a big brother. Little wonder his death is so deeply grieved by the Burrows family, as it is by his own.

Critics wonder why the sport, with its depressing death toll, is allowed to continue, but it has a magnetism for riders that is almost impossible to explain.

They know the risks, they accept them and they grieve when another friend dies or is seriously injured. But the lure of the high-octane pursuit always pulls them back to the roads. Racing is in their blood, and in the DNA of this province also.

Belfast Telegraph

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