William Dunlop: Sad Rea - This win is for you, pal
Emotional Jonathan Rea yesterday dedicated his fourth successive World Superbike race win to the memory of his late friend, William Dunlop.
Reigning world champion Rea, from Ballyclare, said after completing his second win of the weekend round at Misano in Italy: "I wanted to win this race so much as a tribute to William Dunlop.
"I can't imagine what his family are going through and my thoughts are with them."
Rea's fellow Ulsterman Eugene Laverty, from Toome, raced at Misano with a tribute motif to William on his motorcycle, explaining they had started out in racing together.
They were joined in their salutes by British Superbike rider and recent North West 200 winner, Carrick's Glenn Irwin, who said: "William had a lot of talent on a motorbike - as much natural ability as anyone and he was always good craic with a dry sense of humour."
Glenn Irwin added: “I’m not sure if he ever realised how good he was or how good he could become but he was always happy being William. He was so, so humble and my thoughts are with his mum Louise, partner Janine and the family.
“He was very much a family man and I know he adored his daughter Ella. The whole thing is heartbreaking. I look up to all the road racing guys and it was an honour to share a track with him.”
Another friend and former rival Ryan Farquhar said: “I’m absolutely gutted. We all feel the hurt for the family. It’s another sad day for road racing “We started racing at much the same time and came through the ranks together and had a few battles over the years.
“We all know road racing is dangerous and when it goes wrong our thoughts are very much with the family, friends and sponsors who are left behind.”
William’s local Armoy Motorcycle Road Racing Club, in whose event he was due to ride later this month, said: “We are beyond devastated to learn of the death of our club member and local road racing legend William Dunlop.
“Our deepest sympathies go to his partner Janine and daughter Ella, mother Louise, brother Michael and Daniel, Granny May, the Dunlop family, William’s friends, team and wider circle.
“Such a lovely fella, on and off the bike. He will be missed so much by us all.”