Liam Beckett says the death of William Dunlop on Saturday has ‘ripped the hearts out of everyone’.
Universally liked, 32-year-old William died after a crash in practice for the Skerries 100 in County Dublin.
Beckett, a close family friend, finds it difficult to comprehend that another tragedy has been visited upon the Ballymoney family after the death of Joey Dunlop in 2000 and his brother Robert eight years later.
Last night, Beckett – who was Robert’s mechanic and right-hand man – told the News Letter William’s family were in utter despair.
“The family are in bits. William was one of the nicest weans and we are never going to see that wee smile of his again.
“It is unimaginable the tragedy that the Dunlop family has suffered and when I am over at the house it is so reminiscent of what it was like ten years ago, when we lost Robert.
“To see their heartbreak – it’s just ripping the heart out of everyone.
“I have mixed emotions right now of very deep sadness and also anger.
“I’m angry that someone like William, only 32 years of age, has been taken from us,” he added
“I know that has been the case with many riders over the years but I find this hard to accept.
“I think when it hits home like this, it really gets you and I would just love to be able to ask someone ‘why?’
“Hand on heart, I have never heard anyone say a bad word about William Dunlop.
“The lad was a breath of fresh air when I was in his company, whether at a football match or when we were playing golf together.
“William was so full of sincerity and I think that’s a value that is lacking in a lot of people these days – genuine sincerity.
“He leaves behind a tremendous legacy in terms of someone who I thought was a tremendous role model for road racing because not only was he such a talented individual, he was such a nice person to go along with it. “
Beckett is well placed to assess the pedigree of today’s crop of leading road racing exponents and he counts William as among the very best of his generation.
“William was naturally gifted, he didn’t have to depend on his father’s reputation to be the star that he was – he was a star in his own right.
“It’s okay being called Dunlop, but you have got to prove that you have the ability to beat the other riders and William proved that he could.
“In terms of pure road racing, I still count William as one of the very best we have ever had. I will miss him terribly.”
Racing went ahead at Skerries yesterday, when local man Michael Sweeney won the Open and Grand Final races and the Supersport 600 event for a hat-trick.
Sweeney was edged out by Andy Farrell in the Supertwins race.
A number of top riders opted not to race, including Derek Sheils, Derek McGee and Davey Todd.