John Burrows: Derek Sheils has my full support over decision on his future
Northern Ireland team owner John Burrows says road racing is facing '˜dark times' after a series of high-profile fatalities in 2018.
Manx rider Dan Kneen died following a crash in practice at the Isle of Man TT at the end of May, while Scottish newcomer Adam Lyon was killed during the first Supersport TT race last month.
One of the sport’s best-known riders, William Dunlop, became the third member of the legendary Dunlop racing dynasty to lose their life to the sport after an incident in practice at the Skerries 100 on Saturday, July 7.
More tragedy followed as Yorkshire rider James Cowton – a winner at the North West 200 in May in the Supertwins class – died in the final race at the Southern 100 last week after a four-rider pile-up. Lincolnshire’s Ivan Lintin was seriously hurt and is in a critical but stable condition in hospital.
Ex-racer Burrows – whose Dungannon team suffered heartbreak when 20-year-old Malachi Mitchell-Thomas was killed in a crash at the North West 200 in 2016 – revealed that leading Irish national road racer Derek Sheils is currently pondering his future after pulling out of the Walderstown races at the weekend.
Burrows’ team still contested the event with English rider Davey Todd but the County Tyrone team boss says the recent run of fatal crashes has taken its toll.
“These are dark times for the sport we are involved and I hope that is the end of it because we have had Dan Kneen, Adam Lyon, William Dunlop and now James Cowton all killed over the past month and a half,” said Burrows.
“Obviously, it’s not something you can say will never happen again but at the moment it has just been one too many.
“Sadly, these things can happen in racing and we cannot change that. The biggest tragedy is the sorrow that is left behind and the families who have to deal with that. I support the sport, so I can’t knock it, if that makes sense. Sometimes it is very hard to decide to what to do, especially at times like this.”
Burrows has given multiple Irish champion Sheils his full support and says he will fully back the Dublin rider’s decision, whatever path he may choose.
“I talked to Derek earlier in the week and then he texted me to say he was going to sit out Walderstown and I have absolutely no problem with that. It is Derek’s decision – when or if he comes back – and I am sure he will make the best decision long-term for himself,” he said.
“Derek pulled out of Walderstown to reflect on his thoughts after what has happened. He is a sensible guy and he will go through his own thoughts and discuss them with his wife and plan a way forward.
“So much has happened and there is a lot to digest for people like Derek, who have been in the sport for a long time. When you have a rider like William Dunlop, a very safe rider, losing his life in a crash that was basically through no fault of his own, it has a big impact on everyone.”
The team will be in action with young English rider Todd at Faugheen in County Tipperary this weekend.
Burrows added: "If I get the call from Derek to say he wants to race, his bike will there waiting for him, but there is no pressure from me whatsoever and the decision is entirely Derek's."