Motorcycle racing paddocks will be all the poorer for the loss of inimitable commentator Derek ‘Big D’ Mason, who passed away suddenly on Boxing Day.
Mr Mason provided the vocals to decades of racing for generations of fans at circuits like Aghadowey and Kirkistown and the Irish National roads meetings, his infectious love of the sport touching thousands over a career on the mike that spanned more than 30 years.
Yorkshireman Ian Hutchinson was among those who expressed their condolences to Mr Mason’s family.
The Bingley rider, who has been ruled out of next season as he recovers from further surgery to repair his damaged left leg, took to social networking site Twitter to pay tribute to the commentator known affectionately as ‘Big D’.
Hutchinson said: “Sad news to hear that Irish racing commentator Derek Mason (big d) has passed away today, my thoughts are with his family.”
Mr Mason - who worked as a technician at a Belfast college before his retirement - set up his own PA systems and was more often than not hard at work around the various circuits at first light while most others were still in bed as he prepared to commentate on the racing action.
His unbridled enthusiasm behind the microphone and unmistakable tones provided a familiar backdrop to motorcyle and Stock Car race meetings the length and breadth of the country.
His untimely passing has left a large void.
Leslie Moore, editor of Road Racing Ireland Magazine, also paid tribute to ‘Big D’ last night.
“Derek played a big role in hyping up the rivalry between the Armoy Armada and Dromara Destroyers and helped raise the profile of riders such as Joey Dunlop before he became well known,” he said.
“He was instrumental in bringing road racing alive to the fans watching around the circuits, who had no other way of knowing what was happening elsewhere.
“Derek rigged his own PA systems and through his commentaries provided extra excitement to what was happening out on the track.
“He had his own style and it set him apart from everyone else.”