Injured ace lost two of his closest friends in race tragedies
Stephen Thompson is all too well aware of the dangers of road racing.
His hero, the late, great Joey Dunlop, died after crashing in 2000.
Two of his closest friends on the biking circuit, Richard Britton and Martin Finnegan, were also killed while competing.
Thompson himself was seriously injured in a crash three years ago.
From Crumlin in Co Antrim, the 38-year-old began racing in 1993. A regular competitor at the North West 200, Isle of Man TT, Ulster Grand Prix and Macau Grand Prix, he has also taken part in a number of short circuit events.
One friend said: "Stephen is very experienced. He has raced all around the world, and is a well-known and popular figure among fans and other competitors."
Thompson previously described Joey Dunlop as his racing hero, and counted Finnegan and Britton among his closest friends.
Finnegan died while competing at the Tandragee 100 in 2008, while Britton was killed at the Ballybunion races in 2005.
In a 2010 interview ahead of the Isle of Man TT races, Thompson revealed how he carried a constant reminder to his late friends.
"I carry a wee patch on the back of my leathers with Martin's racing number of 45 and Richard's number eight as a way of reminding myself of them and keeping their memory alive," he explained.
Thompson was badly injured in a crash at the Ulster Grand Prix in August 2012.
In an interview with the News Letter a month after the crash, Thompson recalled how he stopped breathing at one point.
"I got away and was lying in eighth, but there was a group in front of me of four or five riders and I thought that if I could catch them I could have got through," he said.
"But coming out of Quarterlands I high-sided and the next thing I went through the hedge. I remember landing and then the pain must have knocked me out.
"I was unconscious for about six or seven minutes and Dr [Fred] McSorley brought me round again because I wasn't breathing."
Yet he was back racing just three months later at the 2012 Macau Grand Prix.
Earlier this year, Thompson said his focus was now on racing for pleasure.
"Most of the guys I'm up against are paid to race but this is a hobby for me and if I can beat some of them, then it gives you a bit of a buzz," he said.