Retro Rewind: Paul Robinson toasts emotional NW200 victory 30 years after father’s death
Thirty years after his father and Armoy Armada racer Mervyn was tragically killed at the North West 200, Ballymoney man Paul Robinson secured an emotional success in the 125cc race at the famous road race.
In a series of special features this week, we are dipping into the archives to look back at some memorable moments from the prestigious motorcycle spectacle on the North Coast.
In 2010, 35-year-old Robinson capitalised on his cousin and race favourite William Dunlop’s second lap retirement to coast home for his maiden victory on the big stage in Portrush.
Robinson was always in control after Dunlop’s demise, even though the threat of Chris Palmer could never be discounted in the middle part of the race.
Palmer looked nailed on to finish as the runner-up before he was forced out with mechanical trouble, allowing Jon Vincent to inherit second place, with Belgian rider Renzo van der Donckt taking third.
The fairy tale success Robinson craved finally materialised after the Co Antrim man had gone agonisingly close to a dream NW200 on several occasions over the previous decade.
And after a nervous final lap spent praying his little Honda would last the distance, a tearful Robinson was able to savour the moment, with his victory serving as a fitting tribute to his father’s memory.
“I was praying the bike would keep going and I was looking at the temperature gauge all the way around,” Robinson said.
“The temperature kept going up and down and I kept wondering if the bike was going right. It would have been better if it had been a close race and it’s bad luck for William,” he added.
“I thought I saw smoke coming from his bike on the first lap but I wasn’t too sure.
“I kept a tight eye at a couple of the slower corners to see who was behind me but I was feeling quite comfortable at that pace.
“This is where it matters and it’s an amazing feeling.”
His victory proved to be the last in a two-stroke race at the North West 200 after the organisers dropped the 125cc race from the programme in 2011. The 250cc class was previously axed in 2009 due to dwindling interest.
Robinson’s father Mervyn was killed after crashing at Mather’s Cross in 1980 and as a result of that fatal accident, his son decided against a full-time career on the roads, instead concentrating mainly on short circuit racing.
He won 125cc races at British championship level and finished second and third overall in the series in 2000 and 2001.
Robinson almost quit the sport in 2008 following the death of his uncle, Robert Dunlop, at the same section of the course that claimed his father’s life.
However, he did a U-turn in 2009 and decided to undertake a full season on the Irish road racing scene in the 125cc class, due to the lack of opportunities in England and the expense involved.
When he retired in 2018, Robinson told me his victories at the North West and Ulster Grand Prix, where he notched a double in the 125/Moto3 class in 2017, were the best moments of his career.
“For me, winning at the North West 200 and Ulster Grand Prix stand out for me as the best moments of my career,” he said.
“It was nice to win British championship races, but none of those came close to winning at the North West and Ulster.
“It was quite emotional going along the Coast Road and it was the last ever two-stroke race at the North West, which is special too.
“I’ll miss the buzz of winning races more than anything because that is simply second to none.”
Also in 2010, Alastair Seeley became the first Northern Ireland rider in 13 years to win the feature Superbike race, beating Stuart Easton (Swan Honda) and John McGuinness, who won the opening race on his HM Plant Honda. The top three were covered by just 1.2 seconds.
Seeley also clinched a Supersport victory on the Relentless TAS Suzuki, with Ian Hutchinson (Padgett’s Honda) coming out on top in the second 600 race.
Scotland’s Keith Amor gave BMW’s new S1000RR machine its maiden international road racing success as he won the Superstock race from Hutchinson and Dungannon’s Ryan Farquhar.
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