Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 1 October 2014

North West 200: Robinson a credit to dad

Partner Julianna congratulates Paul Robinson on his emotional 125 win, honouring the memory of his road racing legend dad, Mervyn Robinson, 30 years after his crash death
Ryan Farquhar
Ballymena's Darren Gilpin pictured at the Relentless International North West 2010

Paul Robinson cracked open a celebratory can of beer and poured out his heart.

To the memory of his North West hero dad, Mervyn Robinson, and the pain of his mum, Helen, sister of Robert and Joey Dunlop.

Minutes earlier, he'd stood on the North West winners' podium to receive the 125 victor's laurels.

Today they rest on the grave of his road racing legend dad, as a promise fulfilled.

There was no more popular and acclaimed winner at Saturday's North West than Paul Robinson, not just as the only self-supporting victor among the bigger names and bigger bikes.

Thirty years have passed since he stood by the track as an excited five-year-old, watching for his dad to ride by, and never seeing him again.

Now, 18 years after joining the family business and becoming a road racer, he'd finally conquered the course that claimed the life of his father in a 500cc crash at Mathers Cross, where his uncle Robert also perished two years ago.

Forty-eight hours after that tragedy, cousin Michael Dunlop transformed the North West 200 from a requiem into a celebration of his father's life, winning the opening 250 race.

Paul Robinson, racing his Honda on modest means, was forced to wait a while longer, to the age of 35, older than his dad at the time he was taken.

But the emotion he felt was no less overwhelming.

“I vowed never to lay a wreath on my dad's grave until I won a race at the North West, which was such a special place to him — and now I can. Words cannot describe how proud that makes me feel,” he revealed as we sat in the cramped van of his one-man team, with partner Julianna supportively alongside.

The salute was to his father but the dedication was directed to mum Helen.

“This is for mum,” he insisted. “I must have put her through hell, going racing. It's been hard for her after what happened to Robert and Joey, and, of course, my dad and I think about them all the time. But my mum stuck by me, knowing this is what I wanted to do since I first started racing at 17.”

And now, with closure, he felt able to talk comfortably of that fateful afternoon, 30 years ago, that shaped his destiny.

“I was here with my gran,” he remembers vividly. “I was watching for my dad coming back round but when he didn't appear, I thought nothing of it.

“It was only later, at tea in Joey's house, that my mum sat me down and told me what had happened.

“I went back to my dinner and even remember what was on the plate, mince and potatoes, but I couldn't swallow.”

Robinson’s was a victory to savour in any circumstances.

As a one man band, he blasted out a fanfare for the common man amid the big-money backed operations and riders now dominating the race.

At his end of the paddock, Robinson relies on, and is grateful for, modest support from backers prepared to believe in him, like Lisburn conveyor belt parts supplier Michael Monroe.

And therein lies the beauty of the North West as everyman’s event.

For all it has grown, tradition and the legacy of those who made it what it is still count for a lot.

Like father, like son.

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