Coroner John Leckey’s damning report on pure road racing, following the death of Ardglass man John Donnan at the Tandragee 100 in 2007, has rocked one of Northern Ireland’s most popular sports.
Extracts of the report, which were published in yesterday’s Belfast Telegraph, suggested that the Donnan incident may have been avoidable, also stating that spectators and officials were lucky to escape with their lives when Donnan’s machine catapulted over an air-fence, before landing in an assembly area.
Leading road racer, and former member of the Motor Cycle Union of Ireland Roads Inspection Committee, Ryan Farquhar was one of the first to voice his concerns, both at the state of his beloved sport and the people who are currently holding the purse-strings.
“When I was on the Roads Inspection Committee we had a good team, people like Noel Johnston, Trevor Ferguson, James Courtney and Derek McWhirter,” Farquhar explained.
“You can’t buy that sort of experience, but unfortunately some clubs voted us off so they wouldn’t have to spend money.
“Maybe now Government is involved they will start to listen, but they have got to listen to experienced riders when it comes to safety issues. I was never in favour of that chicane at Tandragee. They needed to move the paddock and make other improvements,” Farquhar added.
The Senior Coroner also pointed out in his report that spectators, namely children, were also at very serious risk of injury and death from his findings at Tandragee (from video evidence), asking if it was sufficient enough to simply warn fans that motorcycle racing on closed public roads was dangerous?
Farquhar believes that many within the governing body of the sport are ‘stuck in a rut’, as he puts it, and was quick to question ‘invisible’ funding.
“Where is this £700,000 of funding that was talked about last year and who is in charge of spending it?” asked the Dungannon rider.
“The top events get funding yet some of the smaller races can hardly get enough funding to purchase a safety bale or an air fence. There are too many races. With the amount of money that’s been spent on improving the likes of Dundrod, why can’t we scrub some of the smaller races and run two events there?
“It would be better to have three or four circuits that are safe and run a couple of events at them all, than remain in the current situation. But no-one listens — it’s like talking to a brick wall.”
DCAL is expected to meet with Motor Cycle Union of Ireland delegates next week to discuss the current safety issues.