INTERNATIONAL road racing titans John McGuinness and Ian Hutchinson have paid tribute to Ulster road racing kingpin Ryan Farquhar following his retirement from the sport.
KMR Kawasaki boss Farquhar participated in a special parade lap at the Scarborough Gold Cup meeting in North Yorkshire on Sunday to mark the end of his stellar career.
The 36-year-old from Dungannon opted to hang up his leathers following the death of his uncle, Trevor Ferguson, who was killed while riding Farquhar’s Kawasaki ER6 in the Supertwin race at the Manx Grand Prix.
In an exclusive interview with the News Letter after the tragedy, Farquhar vowed never to race again and bade farewell to his fans at the final national road race of the year at Killalane earlier this month, when he was joined on an emotional parade lap by fellow Co Tyrone rider John Burrows, who also quit the sport as a result of Mr Ferguson’s death.
‘Hutchy’ and Isle of Man TT legend McGuinness joined ‘Flying Ryan’ at Scarborough along with Guy Martin, Michael Dunlop, Jamie Hamilton and Robbie Silvester, when all six accompanied Farquhar on three laps of the Oliver’s Mount circuit on a variety of his iconic KMR machines.
McGuinness, who took his tally of TT wins to 19 at the TT in June, said Farquhar deserved the “ultimate praise” for what he has achieved in the sport.
“It was a pleasure to take part in the parade laps with Ryan and it was really good of him to invite me - it was a very nice gesture and I felt quite emotional being out there with him,” he said.
“We’ve had a lot of battles over the years, in all classes, and I’ve always had the utmost respect for him both on and off the track.
“He’s been a class act and a top professional and what he’s achieved in the sport deserves the ultimate praise so good on him,” added McGuinness.
“It’s a shame he’s retired as he’s still very much on top of his game but I wish him all the best and hope he stays involved with the sport.”
Hutchinson, who has been ruled out of the 2013 road racing season following his latest injury setback, said Irish national road racing would “never been the same” without Farquhar.
“Today was the end of road racing as we know it in Ireland, it will never be the same without Ryan Farquhar! Privileged to be part of send-off,” the Yorkshire star wrote on Twitter.
Farquhar – who amassed an incredible 98 victories at Scarborough – said Sunday’s final goodbye proved more emotional than he had anticipated.
“It’s definitely been an emotional day, probably more so than I’d imagined, but I was really pleased to have been able to do the three parade laps so a big thank-you to Peter Hillaby and the Auto 66 Club for allowing me to do it and for all their support over the years,” he said.
“I’ve always enjoyed coming to Scarborough so it was perhaps fitting I brought the curtain down on my career here.
“It was great to see such a big crowd and hear them applauding me so a big thank-you to them too and it was a pleasure to see all the boys out on my bikes,” he added.
“I’ve enjoyed some great battles with them, and other riders like Keith Amor over the years and it was quite unique seeing rivals out on my bikes – I felt very privileged and humbled for sure.”
Farquhar, who became the most successful rider in the history of national road racing with 199 victories during his 18-year career, is determined to continue running his KMR Kawasaki team in 2013.
“Life’s going to very different for me now but I really want to stay involved in the sport so will doing all I can to keep KMR Kawasaki going and at the forefront of the road racing results,” he said.
“That’s my goal now so, fingers crossed, I’ll be in the paddocks in 2013.
“Finally, I’d just like to say thank you to everyone that’s supported me during my career, it’s meant an awful lot and I’m incredibly grateful for everything.”