The father of rising young road racing star Malachi Mitchell-Thomas, who was killed at the North West 200 on Saturday, said his son fully accepted the risks involved.
The 20-year-old newcomer from Chorley in Lancashire crashed between Dhu Varren and Black Hill on the third lap of the Supertwins race.
He’s my boy, it’s heart-breaking, but I owe it to Mal to go on - Kevin Thomas
He died at the scene despite extensive efforts to save his life by the Motor Cycle Union of Ireland medical team.
One of the brightest prospects in motorcycle road racing, the Senior Manx Grand Prix winner made a sensational Irish debut at the Mid Antrim 150 at the beginning of April, winning three races for the Dungannon-based Cookstown B.E. Racing team.
Mitchell-Thomas had underlined his potential further on Saturday, finishing fourth in the Supersport race.
On Sunday, his father Kevin told the News Letter Malachi had been forced to question his involvement in road racing only last month.
That was following the death of close friend Billy Redmayne, who died as a result of a crash at the Scarborough Spring Cup meeting in North Yorkshire.
“Mal lost a close friend in Billy Redmayne and those were the times when he questioned whether or not he wanted to remain involved,” Mr Thomas said.
“He had to go through that process as a result of Billy’s death as we approached the Cookstown 100 last month and his decision was that he still wanted to go out, take those risks and be a part of the big road racing family.
“That shows me what I need to do now – I owe it to Mal to carry on,” he added.
“We discussed the dangers at length, more as a result of me wanting to rather than Malachi wanting to.
“As a father I had to make sure that racing was something he wanted to do and that it wasn’t a case of me being an overbearing dad, pushing him down a road that he didn’t want to go down,” he added.
“When we were talking about doing the roads for the first time, I asked him, ‘right, would you prefer to beat Valentino Rossi in MotoGP or John McGuinness around the TT?’ He said, ‘you don’t have to ask me that, I’d prefer to beat McGuinness around the TT’.
“He wanted to go road racing and Malachi lived more in his 20 years than I have done in my lifetime. I was fortunate that I was able to share those 20 years and be part of the experiences that he made possible.”
Mr Thomas, who plans to scatter his son’s ashes at the Isle of Man TT, said his son possessed an intense desire to succeed and was fully committed to reaching the top in his chosen sport.
“I’ve never seen such an intense desire to win in anyone before, ever. I’ve been around a lot of riders and sports people, but Mal’s desire to win outshone anything I saw before,” he said.
“Off the track, he was the most laid-back, easy-going person you could have laid eyes on, but put that helmet on and he became a racer, so hungry for victory.”
The grieving dad hit out against those critics who have called for road racing to be banned.
“Malachi lived, he didn’t exist. If you ever end up in a world where risk is outlawed and people who want to take risks are prohibited from doing that, then you’re not living, you’re only existing,” he said.
“I don’t listen to the critics because if you ban motorcycle road racing, then what is next? Do we ban horse racing? It’s just nonsense.”
He also paid tribute to the doctors who treated Malachi at the roadside.
“The medics worked on Mal at the side of the road for close to an hour and tried everything in their power to save him,” he said.
“The post-mortem today showed that he died from chest injuries.
“He was my boy and I’m heartbroken, but I owe it to Mal to go on.”
Several riders remain in hospital following crashes at the North West, including Dungannon’s Ryan Farquhar, who is being treated at the Royal Victoria Hospital.
Castledawson’s Nico Mawhinney is in a stable condition, while Ben Wilson has returned to England for treatment on a fractured leg.
Fermanagh’s Paul Gartland is stable in the RVH after a crash in the Superstock race.