Sunday, 15 May 2016

A dark day in the sunshine

I'm not long back from George Best Airport after another pilgrimage to the North West 200 motorcycle road races.

I had hoped to concentrate my comments on my pal Sandy's "reverse panda" tan; dark face and white around the eyes.  Thank heavens for sunglasses.

Or, indeed, to observe how much my old school mate Sean - with added hair - could be a dead ringer for the Mona Lisa.

But tragically, it was the death of 20-year-old boy racer Malachi Mitchell-Thomas which will forever be the abiding memory of the past few days.

I'd not seen Malachi - from Lancashire - ride before.  But, despite being a North West first timer, his performances in practice earlier in the week and in Thursday night's races made him one to watch yesterday.

He finished in a hugely creditable fourth place in the first race of the day.  And in race four, the Supertwins, Malachi was in third spot as he sped out of Portrush on lap three towards the start and finish where I was perched.

But he didn't make it and the race was stopped.

What followed were almost two hours of information blackout - quite right too - as he was treated by medics on the trackside.  

Shortly after 4.30pm, it was announced that the race meeting has been abandoned after a competitor had lost his life.  Confirmation that Malachi Mitchell-Thomas was the rider involved in the incident came a little later once his family had been informed.

Predictably enough, non-road racing fans have since been queuing up to declare that the sport should be banned  - even though most of them have no clue about its ethos.  This was made clear when Malachi's distraught father, Kevin, spoke from the heart to the BBC's Stephen Watson.  Truly heart-wrenching stuff.

But I'll be back again next year, as will Mr Thomas.

It is just so desperately sad that his boy won't be there too.

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