Lucky to be alive Steve Plater was hailed as miracle man last night after surviving a dramatic 125mph North West crash.
Race favourite Plater escaped with a broken arm in two places.
He is now out of tomorrow’s high speed north coast spectacle where he would have started in pole position in the showpiece Superbike race.
But eyewitnesses to the crash on the main coast road, just before the start-finish area at Quarry Hill, feared the popular Lincolnshire rider had suffered much more serious injuries.
A photographer close to the scene said: “Steve seemed to lose control of the front wheel of the bike and both he and bike crashed through the safety bales and down onto a steep slope to the sea. Thankfully he came to rest at the top It’s a miracle he wasn’t more seriously hurt.”
Emergency teams immediately rushed to the area and the final Superbike qualifying session of an otherwise successful first daytime practice at the North West was stopped.
Hundreds of paddock onlookers held their breath as the rider failed to re-emerge and reports filtered back from the scene of a badly wrecked bike.
The on the spot medical team were joined by Plater’s father, Trevor, as an ambulance arrived.
Fifteen minutes later, after treatment where he fell, the stricken rider was taken to the nearby Causeway Hospital for further examination and there were sighs of relief at a tannoy announcement, reassuring fans: “The word from his team is that Steve is OK.”
A statement from his HM Plant Honda team later said: “Steve’s injuries are not life-threatening and he was able to speak to the medical team and the HM team manager at the scene.”
The accident came just before roads were scheduled to reopen at 3pm, at the end of an almost incident free day’s practice, run in difficult conditions of intermittent showers and bitingly cold winds.
It brought the ever-present dangers of motorcycle racing back into sharp focus.
But the relatively minor nature of the rider’s injuries also underlined the effectiveness of improved safety precautions.
Trackside bales would have absorbed and lessened the 125mph impact with protection for the rider provided by his helmet and leathers, both highly developed to minimise injury.
The quick reaction of the medical team also demonstrated the state of high alert operating here.
For his part, Plater (42) will be more disappointed than relieved, particularly at the prospect of missing his two biggest paydays of the year, the North West and next month’s Isle of Man TT, for which he must also be a doubt.
That could mean £100,000 in lost earnings for the full-time HM Plant Honda rider. He would have been hot favourite here to repeat his two wins last year in the Superbike and Supersport classes, adding to his eight wins over the course since 2006.
Plater also holds the all-time North West lap record of 124.109 in the 2006 Superbikes. He is also likely to be philosophical.
A year ago, after an accident-disrupted race, which he went on to win, I asked Plater what went through his mind when incidents, like that involving him yesterday, occurred.
This is what he told me: “You don’t think about what’s going on around you. You have to block things out. It may sound hard but sometimes you have to even block out people and things you've seen.
“You do your thinking later when you cross the line, hopefully in a winning position. Winning races in difficult conditions is all about being professional and staying focused and you only reach that state of mind through experience. I suppose that’s true at the highest level in all sports.”
Even more so in a sport where much of the attraction for riders and spectators lies in pushing limits to the edge.
Steve Plater flew beyond the edge of a steep coastal embankment yesterday and will thankfully tell the tale.
Those of us who said silent prayers for him as the medics went about their work will simply be glad they were answered.
McAdoo Racing’s 23-year-old road racing sensation Conor Cummins is on course to become the Isle of Man’s first North West 200 winner in over 50 years, after setting the Superstock pole time during yesterday’s final practice session on the North Coast.
The final qualifying for tomorrow’s Relentless North West 200 came to a premature end when eight-times winner at the event Steve Plater crashed heavily at Quarry Hill approaching the final bend during the closing Superbike session.