Monday 19 November 2018

Death of biker William (32) is third to hit Dunlop motor racing dynasty

William Dunlop, who died in a crash during the Skerries 100 on Saturday. Photo: PACEMAKER PRESS
William Dunlop, who died in a crash during the Skerries 100 on Saturday. Photo: PACEMAKER PRESS
Allison Bray

Allison Bray

The mood was subdued as the annual Skerries 100 motorcycle race went ahead yesterday, despite the tragic death of racer William Dunlop.

The father of one, from Ballymoney, Co Antrim, who was expecting his second child, was killed during a practice run at the circuit in the north Co Dublin seaside town on Saturday afternoon.

The event was immediately halted as gardaí investigated the cause of the accident, which is believed to have been the result of a mechanical failure.

Organisers considered cancelling the race out of respect for the Dunlop family.

However, the family - whose name is synonymous with motorcycle racing on both sides of the Border - insisted that it must go ahead.

Mr Dunlop (32) is the third member of the Dunlop motorcycling dynasty to have died doing what he loved best.

William Dunlop in a practice session at the Skerries 100 shortly before he died. He is the third member of the biking dynasty to die in crashes while racing. Photo: Barry Cregg/Sportsfile
William Dunlop in a practice session at the Skerries 100 shortly before he died. He is the third member of the biking dynasty to die in crashes while racing. Photo: Barry Cregg/Sportsfile

His father, Robert Dunlop, also died in a crash during a practice session when he was competing at the North West 200 race in Northern Ireland in 2008.

His engine seized, he was thrown over the handlebars and died of his injuries in hospital.

William's brother Michael, who was billed as the star attraction of yesterday's race, also took part in the practice race that claimed his brother's life.

Their uncle, the legendary motorcyclist Joey Dunlop (48) - whose photographs still grace the walls of pubs in Skerries, where he had won more races than any other competitor at the local race - was also killed during a race in Tallinn, Estonia, in 2000.

William's uncle Joey Dunlop. Photo: Stephen Davison
William's uncle Joey Dunlop. Photo: Stephen Davison
William's father Robert

The racer, who had five world championships under his belt, died after losing control and crashing into a tree.

More than 50,000 mourners and members of the motorcycling community from the island of Ireland and beyond attended his funeral in Ballymoney.

Meanwhile, heartbroken friends and colleagues paid their respects to William Dunlop yesterday, including Councillor Darryl Wilson from the Dunlops' home town.

"Utterly heartbreaking news for William's family, friends, the people of Ballymoney and the entire road-racing fraternity," he said.

"My deepest sympathies and heartfelt condolences to all affected by this awful tragedy."

Mr Dunlop's friend photographer Shaun Lewis wrote on Facebook: "There are no words, none that will make sense, nor things that will make it easier for his wife Janine, for William's mum, William's granny, for his brothers or for his beloved daughter Ella, his close friends and the whole family circle.

"Tonight, I raised a glass to William. I am extremely proud to have known you, extremely proud to have watched you entertain the tens of thousands of race fans around the world and extremely proud to have been approached by you to cover your races.

"William lived for racing, it's all he knew, it was bred through him, through his uncle, through his dad and even Michael followed him.

"In the last couple of years, William lived for Janine and his beautiful wee daughter, Ella."

Organisers of the Skerries event, The Loughshinny Motorcycle Supporters Club, said the race went ahead with Mr Dunlop on everyone's mind.

In a statement, the club said: "The spectators were treated to some superb racing from our incredibly talented riders, with only one rider in mind, William Dunlop, a fitting tribute to their fellow fallen rider.

"The Loughshinny Motorcycle Supporters Club extends their heartfelt sympathy to William Dunlop's family and friends.

"We are continuing to support them over this very difficult time and the club would ask that the privacy of the family be respected at this time."

Spectators attending the race yesterday said that Mr Dunlop's tragic death had cast a pall on the event, which is normally a much-anticipated date on the local and racing community calender.

Many people left early out as "their hearts just weren't in it", one spectator told the Irish Independent.

Irish Independent

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