Video: Ryan Farquhar back on bike for first time since horror North West 200 crash
Ryan Farquhar spoke of his delight at getting back on the bike after a horrific near life-ending crash forced his retirement from the sport two years ago.
And he was given a rousing reception from an adoring Belfast crowd. It's estimated over 35,000 were in the city for the Red Bull F1 showrun event on Saturday night.
Farquhar and fellow road-racing veteran Jeremy McWilliams performed a demonstration of the awesome powers of a pair of KMR Kawasaki Supertwin bikes. They were among a crop of motorsport legends - and rising stars - to take part in the event which saw roads closed around the city to allow their mechanical beasts to stretch their legs.
McWilliams and Farquhar tore down the streets of Belfast at eye-watering speeds, performing wheelies and burnouts much to the delight of the crowd.
Farquhar had suffered serious injury in the North West 200 in 2016. The five-time triangle circuit winner spent weeks in hospital, including suffering a serious relapse with a catalogue of injuries which included six fractured ribs and broken feet and the most serious, internal bleeding and the lacerated liver which ultimately required four operations.
He had retired from the sport in 2013 after the death of his uncle Trevor Ferguson in a race, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family, but his love of the road brought him back and he has talked of wanting to be back racing again after his North West crash.
On Saturday night - in front of thousands who had descended on the city to see the Red Bull showrun - Farquhar talked of his pride in naming his KMR Racing team after his daughters Keeley and Mya.
The Dungannon man said he was delighted - although admitted there were some nerves - to get back on the bike in front of the cheering Belfast crowd for the first time since his crash over two years ago. He said that it was difficult to get a feel for the bike - given the fleeting run they were allowed in the time - and the added weight he had put on and felt "completely like a fish out of water".
Also taking part in the show was stunt bike rider Mattie Griffin and Cork youngster Conor Shanahan. The 15-year-old vowed the crowds with his drifting prowess behind the wheel of his Nissan 180X. He joked it was probably the first time he would be driving been on a public - albeit closed - street.
Former F1 driver David Coulthard was behind the wheel of the double championship winning 2012 Red Bull car. Before setting off he joked he would not be going any faster than 19.9mph give the 20 limit. But some among the crowd may say he crept above that as he roared down the Chichester Street straight.
"The reaction from the people of Belfast has been absolutely fantastic and I’m not just saying that in a ‘nice to be nice’ kind of way,” he said.
“The warmth of the fans has been amazing and the amount of people who have been coming over to say ‘thank you for coming to Belfast’, ‘thank you for bringing the F1 car here, so big thanks to Red Bull for making this opportunity possible. It's not easy to get all the permissions."
He added: "I believe that not a lot of people live in the city and most live in the suburbs and outside of town, so to have them come here at night is a testament to the huge level of support for motorsport there is in Ireland.
“There’s no question the Irish love F1. There’s a huge motorsport tradition here – on two and four wheels, circuit racing, rally – so it was really special. I’m not sure if we wait another eight years I’ll be able to fit in my race suit, so we’d better come back again soon.”
Belfast Telegraph Digital