Tribute: Dan Kneen was one of the nicest people you could meet
Motorcycle road racing is in mourning following the death of 30-year-old Manx rider Dan Kneen after an incident on the Churchtown (Conkerfields) section of the TT course close to Ramsey on the opening lap of yesterday evening's practice.
Kneen was riding for Hector and Philip Neill's Moneymore-based Tyco BMW team and had earlier in the week set his fastest ever lap of the TT circuit at 132.258mph, third behind Dean Harrison and his Tyco BMW Superbike team-mate Michael Dunlop.
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Kneen's machine and a tree caught fire after the crash and the practice session was immediately red flagged.
Kneen died at the scene of the accident from his injuries.
In a separate incident, a course car on its way to the Kneen crash was involved in a collision with a rider at Ballacrye. The rider, Steve Mercer, was airlifted to Nobles Hospital and subsequently moved to Liverpool for further treatment.
Kneen was a quiet, laid-back man from a racing family, liked by everyone in the paddock and one of the nicest people you could meet - always smiling with time for a chat.
Kneen made his Mountain Course debut during the 2008 Manx Grand Prix and created his own niche in history by becoming the first man ever to win three Manx Grand Prix races in a week - the Newcomers Lightweight, Junior and Ultra-Lightweight runnings.
His younger brother Ryan also won the Senior Newcomer Race the same year.
In fact, the Kneen brothers are the only siblings in the history of the Manx GP or Isle of Man TT to win separate classes of the same race (the Newcomers race is for separate classes).
Kneen made his TT debut a year later and since then had started 39 races at the event, finishing 31 - 24 of them inside the top 15.
Following Ian Hutchinson's accident in the Senior TT last year, Kneen was drafted into the Tyco BMW team for the Ulster Grand Prix after impressive performances at the Southern 100. His performances at Dundrod led to him signing for the high-profile team for 2018.
Kneen had scored his first TT podium just last year in the Superstock race behind Hutchinson and Peter Hickman.
He was no stranger to racing in Northern Ireland, winning the National and Challenge race at the 2010 Dundrod 150 before taking a narrow victory in the 2014 Ulster Grand Prix Superstock race, after a thrilling dice with Dean Harrison the same year in which he was Irish and Ulster Superbike Road Race champion.
He rode for Tim and Sonia Martin's Mar-Train Yamaha team and gave the new R1-M Yamaha its first and to date only international road race podium.
In total he won 14 races in Ireland, including the Tandragee 100 feature race a few weeks ago.
And he was no slouch on the short circuit scene. He was Isle of Man Solo champion and the Jurby Endurance race winner in 2009, won the prestigious Enkalon Trophy at Bishopscourt on Easter Saturday 2017 and the Mayor's Trophy at Kirkistown on Easter Monday the same year.
Kneen's death shows the fine line between success and catastrophe in this branch of the sport. The first three practice sessions at the TT went off incident free, with speeds on the increase session on session in brilliant conditions with everyone on a high, but in the blink of an eye it turned to despair and grief.
To Dan's partner Leanne, his family and all his road racing friends, we send our deepest sympathies.