William Dunlop's death has brought back painful memories of Malachi tragedy for Burrows
The tragic loss of William Dunlop brought sad memories back into sharp focus for Cookstown racing team boss John Burrows.
Rising star Malachi Mitchell-Thomas, on his way to becoming a poster boy for the sport, was riding for the Burrows Engineering Racing Team when he was killed in an accident at the 2016 North West 200.
Burrows had been preparing his team to compete at the Skerries 100 when William died following an accident in Saturday practice. He immediately took a decision to withdraw his team from Sunday's races after talks with riders Derek Sheils and Davey Todd, who were in agreement with their boss.
Burrows explained: "The team is saddened by the death of William Dunlop. He is such a big name in the sport and his death has had a big impact on a lot of people.
"It's a dangerous sport as I know only too well. I was a racer and now I run a team, so I can't turn around and knock the sport, but it doesn't make things any easier when a tragedy like this happens.
"We sat down on Saturday night and decided that we should just pack up and head on to the Southern 100.
"I guess you could say we are a rare breed, but what can you do? You just have to get on with things. Unfortunately I never got a chat with William on Saturday, but I will remember him as a lovely lad.
"As a team, we understand what it is like to lose a rider after Malachi Mitchell-Thomas was killed at the North West 200 in 2016. The Dunlops are big supporters of road racing and I know that William's brother Michael and Joey's son Gary, who were there on Saturday, are just devastated.
"We send our condolences to them and also to William's partner Janine and little daughter Ella, and the wider Dunlop family."
With the blessing of the Dunlop family, the Skerries race organisers decided to run the race as a non-championship meeting, donating the overall prize fund to William's family after consultation with competitors.
The head of the team William was riding with at Skerries also paid a heartfelt tribute.
Saintfield haulage firm owner Tim Martin, who runs the well known Mar-Train team, said he had been left "numb and shocked" by the tragedy.
"We're all just numb and in shock," he said. "It's nothing compared to what William's partner Janine, his daughter Ella and the Dunlop family are going through, but it's just so hard to take."
William teamed up with Martin last year with both parties confident of success. He was riding the team's Temple Golf Club-branded Yamaha R1 machine when the accident occurred.
Martin added: "We tried to support him as much as we could last year and then we really got behind William this year to have a real go at it.
"Yes, he was a Dunlop and part of the dynasty, but William was a man in his own right.
"William was a one-man band and he just turned up to race himself. He was very private and he never talked about his partner or any of his family - he definitely kept his cards close to his chest.
"He was quiet but he was a gentleman - a very genuine person and a humble man. I don't know where we go from here, it's not something that has even entered my thinking.
"We will offer any help we can if it is needed, but the Dunlops are very much a close-knit family and when something like this happens, they close ranks and become one unit."