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Living and Dying For Road Racing

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LIVING AND DYING FOR ROAD RACING The year 2000 was a watershed for road racing. Five of the top motorcyclists lost their lives in this powerfully perilous sport on Ulster's roads. The sixth and most notorious 'King of the Road' Joey Dunlop OBE, MBE, died at the age of 48 during an obscure race in Estonia on 02 July 2000. Dunlop was a master of this sport, winning six Formula One T.T.s and twenty-six wins at the Isle of Man, in addition to an abundance of wins back in Ulster. He was credited with being one of the safest riders to grace any circuit. Was it not ironic, then, that one of the safest riders in the sport, died whilst competing in a road race? The former promoter of the Ulster Grand Prix and North West 200, Billy Nutt stated in 2001 that, due to the number of fatalities within the last year, road racing should be stopped, as there was no future in it. ...read more.


Road racing in this country has the second highest following of fans after football. It lets people spectate at a motor sport equivalent to Formula One, the only difference being minimal financial outlay compared to Formula One racing. It is also cheaper and better to watch than Formula One, as there are no "Team Orders" for competitors to obey, they race mainly for themselves, in addition to being part of a team. Also all the races are easily accessible to local spectators and the riders are from their own area and have time to talk freely to people. The safety features and on-going road repairs ensures that for the rest of the year normal motorists benefit with better road surfaces, improved road junction visibility with high hedging etc trimmed down. Local Road Racing is now regarded, as being as safe as many race circuits in England, but is it still too dangerous? It must be remembered that lives are at risk on circuit racing as well, but is never dwelled on in the same respect as loss of life in a pure road race. ...read more.


None of the riders are compelled to compete, in fact they are only too willing to attend meetings run on the road circuits in Ireland, even if they ply their trade mainly on supposedly safe circuits in the UK. The riders insist that if they, like Gary Jess, lost their life, the sport must continue, as they enjoy the whole ethos of road racing so much. It may be hard for a non-bike fan to understand the attraction for this sport, which endures so many fatalities. However, it continues to attract record numbers of the public every year. With talk of a purpose built track for Northern Ireland in the future, will this make pure road racing dwindle into the history books? According to fans the answer is a resounding NO, as they believe that there will always be a place for road racing. Road racing can be made safer, but it will never be 100% safe. There are more young people getting injured (broken arms and legs) in dark alleyways every night in Ulster than there are at road racing. This does not hit the new headlines as much as road racing fatalities. Beverley Peters ...read more.

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