IT was a poignant moment when road racers John Burrows and Ryan Farquhar completed a parade lap at the Killalane road races on Sunday.
Both men were saying their final goodbyes to their fans after quitting the sport, paying tribute at the same time to Trevor Ferguson, who lost his life following a crash at the Manx Grand Prix.
The duo, who rode Trevor’s 750cc Suzuki and Triumph 675 machines, received a heartfelt send-off on their last ever lap of the 3.6-mile circuit near Dublin.
Upon their return, they stopped at the start area for photographs.
Farquhar, a titan of Ulster road racing, lifted the lid of his visor and shook hands with his fellow road racing comrade.
In an instantaneous reaction following their emotive farewell, he looked Burrows in the eyes and said, ‘John, we’re the lucky ones’.
Yesterday, Burrows endorsed those sentiments, telling the News Letter he feels fortunate to be walking away from road racing having escaped the dreadful feat of so many of his former rivals and friends.
The 40-year-old, who made his decision to quit road racing immediately following Mr Ferguson’s fatal crash on the Isle of Man, said: “It was nice in many ways at Killalane to say goodbye, but it was very emotional.
“Myself and Ryan did our parade lap and we stopped for a couple of photographs.
“Ryan lifted his visor and looked at me and we shook hands, then he said ‘John, me and you are the lucky ones’.
“I guess there is something true in what he said, because although I’m not knocking the sport, I sat down and counted the number of riders who have been killed since I started racing on the roads some 10 years ago and there has been over 20.
“I don’t know the exact figure, but those were just names off the top of my head and I was probably in that firing line myself,” he added.
“It was 20 too many and Trevor’s death has brought it all home to me.”
Burrows, who runs his own business in Dungannon, compared his addiction to road racing as similar to the struggles of an alcoholic attempting to make their next drink their last.
The correlation he was alluding to is that an alcoholic will only stop drinking when he makes that decision for himself.
“I knew one day I would make the decision and the time was coming close, but it’s a decision I had to make when I was ready and not one I would make if I was being forced into it by somebody,” he explained.
“I’ve always compared giving up road racing with an alcoholic wanting to stop drinking.
“An alcoholic only gives up when he’s ready; no matter how much counselling or advice he or she would get, they only stop when they are ready to themselves.
“Road racing is very similar. You can’t be forced – it is a decision that has to be reached within yourself.
“There is no doubt that I’m now ready to give it up, although I know it will be hard.
“I was under pressure at times from family members who wanted me to walk away from it, but I knew when the time was right I would do it.”
A close friend of Castlecaulfield man Mr Ferguson, who was buried in his home village on Friday, Burrows’ thoughts are still dominated by his old pal’s demise.
“Trevor is still very much to the front of my mind and although it was nice to pay tribute to him by riding his bike around on a parade lap at Killalane, it was very emotional.
“Two of his three kids were there and it was hard on them, but hopefully we have done the man proud,” he said.
“We got a great reception from the crowd and I think Trevor got a great reception too.
“I don’t know what the future holds, but I love the sport and I hope I can be involved in some way with it.
“I’ve a lot of questions I need to answer yet.
“People will turn around and say ‘you’ve got your family’ and that is true. I’ll put a big effort into them, but bikes have been such a big part of my life for so long now and I don’t know how I’ll fill my time without it,” said Burrows.
“Thankfully, I’m not relying on road racing and I’ve got my business, so I’ll probably throw myself into that a bit more.
“You get lost for words about the whole thing at times.”
John concedes there were targets he never managed to accomplish during his career in road racing, but has accepted that those goals will now remain unfulfilled.
“I never managed a 125mph lap at the TT and that was a box I wanted to tick, but it’s all ifs and buts.
“I’ve finished on the podium at the North West 200, I’ve been on the podium at the Ulster Grand Prix and I’ve won three Irish road racing championship,” he said.
“I’ve been inside the top 10 at the TT and I’ve had numerous top three finishes at the Irish road race meetings, so I’m quite pleased with what I have achieved.
“I never imagined I would ever do what I have done in this sport.
“I have my wife Rachel and son Jack and we’ve another baby on the way, so it wasn’t as difficult a decision to make as it could have been.
“But nothing will ever give me the buzz that I got when I was setting off down Bray Hill.”
Passing on his thanks to everyone who has supported him in racing, Burrows added: “There are too many people to mention, from sponsors to the press and media and my supporters club – I thank them all for what they have done for me.
“I’m indebted to a degree to Baylon McCaughey, who gave me my first ride on a race bike.
“He came to me on Sunday with a tear in his eye and is also pleased that I’ve stopped, because if something had happened to me he’d probably have blamed himself for getting me started in racing.
“What can I say – it’s over for me now,” said a philosophical Burrows.
“I just wish all the riders all the best for a safe future and I hope I don’t lose any more friends.”