The sister of a Carrickfergus rider killed while competing at the weekend’s Irish Superbike race was among those who watched in horror as he was catapulted from his bike, dying instantly from a fractured skull.
Sam Martin, a 37-year-old lorry driver, was killed in a crash on the Kirkistown circuit near Newtownards in Co Down on Saturday.
His proud sister Andrea was among spectators watching the event when tragedy struck and he was thrown from his motorbike after clipping with another rider.
This was his first year of racing although he was well-known in the race paddock as a motorbike mechanic.
Officials abandoned the event after the accident happened during the second race of the day, the Open Clubman’s Class race for beginners. An investigation is under way by the PSNI and the Ulster Centre of the Motorcycle Union of Ireland to establish the circumstances of the crash.
However, it is understood another rider’s machine clipped Mr Martin’s 1,000cc Suzuki from behind as they went into the hairpin section of the circuit.
The other rider sustained minor injuries but Mr Martin was catapulted into the air and suffered a fractured skull.
Speaking on behalf of the family, life-long friend John Finlay said they were “shattered” by his death. He described how Mr Martin’s sister had been cheering on her brother when she watched the horror unfold.
“Sam lived with his mum Elizabeth and his granny Violet Johnston. They are all devastated,” he said. “He was living his dream. It was his life-long ambition to race. He was working to fund the racing.”
Mr Finlay said he had known the rider since their schooldays at Glengormley High School in Newtownabbey and they both shared a passion for motorbikes.
“We were like brothers,” he said. “I’m not getting on my bike again. I don’t race, but even just for pleasure I can’t get on my bike again — not after this.”
He said Sam loved the sport: “His motto was ‘old enough to know better, young enough not to care’.”
Funeral arrangements will be made later in the week and Mr Finlay said the family expect a large turnout. “He was a very popular guy,” he said. “He would do absolutely anything for anybody.”
Stephen Freeburn, secretary of the Ulster Centre of the Motorcycle Union of Ireland, sent the family their condolences.
“An accident like this is extremely rare in Kirkistown,” Mr Freeburn said. “The last known fatality I’m aware of during racing was in 1980.”
He added that they would wait to hear the outcome of the investigation “for the finer details of what happened”.