The Portrush golfer Graeme McDowell summed up both the dangers and the thrills of motorcycle road racing when he paid tribute to William Dunlop during his post Irish Open press conference in Co Donegal yesterday.
McDowell, from the same part of Northern Ireland as the famed Dunlop motorcycling family, knows all about road racing, even if his own sport is ultimately much safer.
“It’s such a dangerous sport, they stand in front of the camera and they know the dangers that face them out there but it’s in their blood and it’s what they love to do,” said McDowell.
More than anyone else, motorcycle road racers know the dangers of the sport they love. So while the tragic death of William Dunlop during practice at Skerries on Saturday at age just 32 will provoke the predictable calls for the sport to be banned, they will hold no sway with the competitors themselves and the sport’s many followers. As McDowell said, it’s in their blood, it’s what they love to do.
That racing at the Skerries 100 went ahead yesterday with a lap of tribute to William and with the blessing of the Dunlop family, tells you everything you need to know about the resilience of the road racing family, about how they stand shoulder to shoulder in solidarity at difficult times like these.
The Dunlop family, including William’s partner Janine and daughter Ella, will need that solidarity and support in the days and weeks to come, William’s loss all the more poignant because of the death of his father Robert 10 years ago at the North West 2000 and his uncle Joey in Estonia in 2000.
What has been particularly striking in the short period since William’s death is how loved he appears to have been as a person. In the flood of tributes since his passing, most have focused more on William Dunlop’s great qualities as a person before his undoubted qualities as a rider.
The Dunlop family will always be an Ulster sporting institution. Like Joey and Robert before him, William will be much missed.