Belfast Telegraph

Comment: Why riders race on even after tragedies like Jamie Hodson

Ulster Grand Prix Comment

By Roy Harris

The tragic accident during the Dundrod 150 road races last Thursday, which claimed the life of Jamie Hodson, has put the risks involved back into sharp focus and again prompted the question: is it worth it?

Many will have differing views on road racing, which has an avid following throughout Northern Ireland and beyond.

It would be dishonest of me to portray any death in a road race accident as an acceptable aspect of the sport; likewise the death of any competitor in any high risk sport or activity, be it motorsport, cycle racing, mountaineering, horse riding, base jumping, free climbing, para-gliding and more.

None are acceptable, however accidents can and will happen despite every possible precaution being taken - accidents are what the word means and sometimes they can prove fatal.

Everyday life carries risks, be it driving a car, as a pedestrian, stepping onto an aeroplane, taking the bus or even carrying out home improvements and lives have been lost in the process.

I have been going to motorcycle racing since the early 1960s. My first Ulster Grand Prix visit was in 1963 and I am a motorcycle sport supporter - a fanatic, certainly not, but I very quickly learned that competitors can die. Did it put me off? Absolutely not.

My view of road racing is quite simple - would anyone participating in their chosen sport, or indeed any everyday activity, set out thinking they are going to die? They do not. Do they accept the risk involved? Yes. Do they think it is ever going to happen to them? No. That is why an accident is an accident, not deliberate. No-one sets out to be involved in one, but they happen.

Everyone is aware of the risks involved; of course road racing is dangerous, but it's not the only dangerous sport where people risk their life.

Competitors love the sport, they love racing bikes fast in a controlled environment and they love the freedom, out on their own taking on a challenge - something that has been going on since the invention of the wheel.

People enjoy their freedom to do as they choose, they are not pushed kicking and screaming into it. As many times injured Guy Martin famously says in the brilliant road racing movie 'TT: Closer To The Edge': "No-one forces us to do it."

For race organisers, safety is paramount. Roads are closed, you are not meeting on-coming traffic, the best medical personnel are on hand to render assistance if an accident occurs, roadside furniture is protected - in fact if you are going to have an accident as a competitor or suffer an illness as a spectator you could not be in a better environment with an A&E department on two-wheels on hand with racing's Flying Doctors.

Yes, you have families and friends in the paddock worrying, biting nails, when a race is on, but would they intervene to stop their son or daughter from doing what they have chosen as their sport?

I don't believe so; the majority encourage and support them.

Can lessons be learned? Of course. As always, with every accident, an inquiry will be held and changes will be made if required. Will an accident happen again? Potentially, yes.

Motorcycle racers are no fools, they are not irresponsible risk takers and they simply refuse to be wrapped in cotton wool.

Their and my thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Jamie Hodson.

Belfast Telegraph

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