Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 26 July 2014

Manx Grand Prix: Why they ride on in face of tragedy

Riders such as Wayne Hamilton thrived on the excitement racing provided

The tragic deaths of 20-year-old Wayne Hamilton in Monday’s Junior Manx Grand Prix and 41-year old Adrian McFarland during practice for a road race in the Czech Republic on Saturday has left Irish road racing in a state of shock.



The rising young star and the experienced ‘old hand’ taken in the blink of an eye, leaving behind the immense loss felt by family members and friends.

Road racing has and always will be a treacherous sport with such a precarious fine line between success and disaster.

Wayne Hamilton was pictured basking in the glory of winning Saturday’s Newcomers race on his debut around the 37 and three-quarter mile Mountain Circuit, being tipped as a future TT winner after his success.

But two days later he was killed in an accident at the 13th Milestone on the third lap of the Junior Manx Grand Prix when lying in third position.

Many inside and outside the sport will question the validity of road racing after these accidents, but every rider who straps on his or her helmet is well aware of the risks and consequences of an accident.

Would they want to change it? Not a chance. No-one forces us to do it is the answer every time.

Road racing, and especially the Isle of Man mountain circuit, is demanding and takes total commitment and concentration. It is the ultimate challenge for competitors, a circuit that needs to be treated with respect and one that can bite back hard, the holy grail of road racing and the one that every rider wants to race on and conquer, each aware that one wrong move can have serious consequences.

The buzz and fulfilment of having raced on the world’s toughest circuit seems to far outweigh the dangers for the racers.

All the local circuits here in the Northern Ireland have had tens of thousands of pounds spent on them to eliminate some of the dangers in an attempt to make them safer.

Inquiries into fatal accidents have been held and recommendations have been implemented, but will they prevent fatalities?

Precautions reduce the risks considerably, but accidents can and will happen some resulting in fatalities, as in everyday life whether you are driving your car, riding your bicycle, walking the pavement or racing a motorcycle - that risk is always there.

The Manx mountain circuit is unique and has been transformed in recent years with the introduction of many safety initiatives, but again like any other racing venue, be it a short circuit or a road, it can never be made 100% safe with competitors young and old from all corners of the globe willing to take on the challenge it offers.

Unfortunately sometimes it can all go horribly wrong as witnessed on Monday with Wayne Hamilton’s tragic accident.

He will be remembered in the close-knit road racing fraternity by that smiling face, clutching the winner’s bottle of champagne and adorned in the laurel wreath following his race success last Saturday riding the Yamaha with the No1 plate.

Motorcycle racing can be a cruel sport. However despite the deaths of Wayne, Adrian, Neil Kent, who lost his life during Manx Grand Prix practice and Ben Gautrey, killed at Cadwell Park on Monday during the British Superbike meeting, racing will continue on the Isle of Man today with the 500cc and Formula Classic races followed by the Supertwin and Lightweight event.

Had Wayne been spared and another taken, he'd have been back riding, too, such is the nature of the road racing breed.

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