Kyle White: Loss of Jack Oliver and Davy Morgan heart-breaking and inevitable calls for end to road racing an insult to their memory
The awful news of young Limavady racer Jack Oliver’s tragic death at the Kells Road Races was another blow to the close-knit motorcycling community.
The 20-year-old’s fatal accident comes on the back of the worst death toll at the Isle of Man TT since 1989, with five competitors losing their lives on the notorious Mountain Course as the event returned for the first time in three years.
Among them was Irish roads stalwart Davy Morgan from Saintfield in Co Down, an ever-present in racing paddocks the length and breadth of the country and one of the most recognisable, with his striking pink Arai helmet making him stand out from the crowd.
At 52-years-old, Davy was in the twilight of his career. He contemplated retirement in recent years, but the enforced break from road racing in 2020 and 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic made him realise how much he missed the sport.
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His decision to carry on ultimately cost him his life almost three weeks ago, when he crashed on the third and final lap of the opening Supersport race at the TT on his Yamaha R6.
A vastly experienced competitor, Davy was competing in his 80th TT race. His reputation as a safe and steady rider added to the sense of incredulity that he had lost his life at such a late stage in his career.
Yet, the inherent risks associated with motorcycle road racing can catch any rider out at any time, regardless of their talent, skill and experience: the scarcely believable news of Joey Dunlop’s fatal accident at Tallinn in Estonia 22 years ago laid that grim reality bare.
If it can happen to Joey, it can happen to anyone.
On the day when Davy’s body was being escorted back to his hometown in Saintfield by a large turnout of bikers, fate dealt bright prospect Jack Oliver a cruel hand at the Crossakiel course in Co Meath.
A winner for the first time in the Senior Support race at the Cookstown 100 in April, Jack was quickly earning a reputation as a rider with lots of potential.
Tragically, his career was cut short in its infancy and another young rider has been taken too soon.
There is no escaping the utter devastation and heartbreak that has been inflicted on so many families who have lost loved ones to road racing.
And the old cliché that they died doing what they loved may offer little comfort at times like this, particularly in the case of Jack Oliver, who had his whole life ahead of him.
Yet, his family and those closest to him know that he lived for motorcycle racing, just as Davy Morgan did during a career that spanned almost three decades.
The outcry that comes when there has been a spate of fatal accidents in road racing is inevitable, but if those championing an end to the sport had their wishes fulfilled, where do you draw the line?
Life comes with risk, and while no one is disputing that those participating in high-speed motorsport events are increasing their chances of suffering serious injury or worse, we live in a free society and can decide for ourselves how we choose to live our lives, within the framework of the law.
It comes down to freedom of choice.
No one knows the dangers involved in motorcycle racing more than the riders themselves, again an old cliché, but one that is absolutely true.
If they are prepared to accept those stakes in pursuit of their dreams and ambitions, why should anyone – particularly those with no real understanding of road racing – have the right to demand the sport they love is taken away from them?
Any ban on road racing as a consequence of recent tragedies would be an insult to the memory of those who died.