William Dunlop: North West race chief Whyte says news of death 'hit him for six'
Grieving North West 200 race chief Mervyn Whyte has told how the death of William Dunlop "hit me for six".
Whyte was speaking from the World Superbike round at Misano in Italy where champion Jonathan Rea dedicated his win to William.
Rea's fellow Ulsterman, friend and rival, Eugene Laverty rode in the race with a tribute on his bike to William with whom he started out racing.
Whyte also spoke of how he had watched William's career develop from a 125cc racer at 17 to becoming a North West winner.
"I remember him coming to the North West with his dad Robert. He would have just sat in Robert's car, very polite and only speaking when he was spoken to.
"That was William's personality. He was very quiet and unassuming, so helpful and so easy to work with.
"He was also a great competitor with superb racing skills.
"He could have been even more successful but for various issues with his bikes and support from time to time.
"I will never forget the aftermath of his father's death in Thursday night practice at the 2008 North West. William and his brother Michael came to me the following day insisting they wanted to ride on the Saturday.
"I tried hard to dissuade them but they were adamant and both took to the grid. William's bike packed in on the practice lap and Michael went on to famously win but my heart was in my mouth.
"And now we have lost William, too. It is so hard to accept and I really feel for the family."
Eugene Laverty paid his own personal tribute to his boyhood pal William after the Misano race. He said: "William and I started out racing at the same time and battled for race wins in out first year. I have fond memories of that period in my career as we were very carefree and just loved riding bikes at that age.
"I continued racing on circuits whereas William turned his attention to road racing.
"He'll be sorely missed as he was a very genuine character."