Dad of tragic rider Simon Andrews makes emotional North West return
The father of an English motorcycling racer who died at last year's North West 200 has made an emotional return to Northern Ireland, a place his son loved.
Stuart Andrews said his son Simon, who died two days after a horror crash in the Supertock race last May 19, said Northern Ireland had occupied a special place in the 31-year-old's heart.
The grieving father said he had been very moved that Northern Ireland fans had taken his son into their affections and pledged that he would always return to support the Co Antrim sporting event that his son had the greatest regard for.
Self-confessed adrenalin junkie Simon, from Evesham in Worcester, made his North West debut in 2011 when he was the fastest newcomer.
"Simon loved Northern Ireland and loved racing here. He had a short life but a most enjoyable one," said the rider's father.
"It was obvious I was going to have to come," he said.
"The rest of the family are still grieving and there's been so many things going on but it's important to us that we came to support the North West and we always will because Simon loved Northern Ireland; he loved the people and the racing here.
"The other side of the equation is that it's important for the rest of the world to know that these young men actually enjoy the sport."
Invoking the poignant quotation, "there is no armour against fate", he said his son had never lived in fear of the safety risks posed by his beloved racing. "People ask, 'do you have regrets?' or 'are you sad?' but it's difficult to be sad for someone who lived life to the maximum.
"It was Simon's view that you never fear; fear in life - that's not living.
"Live your life to the max and he had some great friends and some great times and people in Northern Ireland took him to their hearts and he just loved the place."
In life, Simon was philosophical about the risks posed by his favourite sport.
Not very long before his tragic death, he told the Belfast Telegraph the risks were worth taking.
"I'm aware of the danger but without the danger where's the fun? For me it's the pure thrill of it that keeps you going," he said.
"It's hard to describe the amazing feeling you get when you're going really fast on a small motorbike.
"I am definitely an adrenaline junkie.
"If I'm not away racing, you can be sure I'll be doing something else. I just have to keep the buzz going."
A year on, his father Stuart is reassured in the knowledge his son died doing something that he loved.
"All he ever wanted to do was ride motorbikes," he said.