A female spectator is fighting for her life following a serious crash involving three racers during the opening race at the North West 200 motorcycle race in Northern Ireland this afternoon.
The spectator is listed in critical condition at Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital where she was airlifted following the horrific crash on the second lap of the opening Superstock race at the annual event near the Giant’s Causeway near Portrush.
The crash took place on a section of the 14-km circuit where racers exceed speeds of 300 kilometres per hour. The race has been suspended following the crash.
Veteran racers Stephen Thompson, (38) from Crumlin, Co Antrim and Horst Saiger, (43), from Austria, were also injured. They were treated at the scene by a race medical team before being taken to hospital in Coleraine, according to a race spokesman.
However race director Mervyn Whyte said both riders were conscious when they were transferred to hospital.
A third rider, Dean Harrison, (26), from Bradford, England, was involved in the crash but was uninjured. A blog on his race website noted that conditions were “a bit slippy” due to heavy rain on Friday when the race kicked off.
Mr Thompson, who is a regular competitor at the North West 200, suffered a broken vertebra after crashing at the Ulster Grand Prix race in August 2012.
The race route is considered one of the most dangerous in the world in which riders reach speeds of 320 kilometres per hour or more on the closed-off back roads between Portrush, Coleraine and Portstewart on the Co Antrim coastline.
On Thursday Hungarian rider Sandor Bitter crashed during a practise run, but he was able to resume racing today after being treated in hospital for minor injuries.
Sixteen riders have been killed on the circuit since the race began in 1930 with the most recent fatality occurring during last year’s Superstock race in which English rider Simons Andrews, (29), from Evesham died of injuries he sustained after crashing at the Metropole section of the circuit.
Another serious accident took place last year in which French rider Frank Petricola was injured during a practise run.