Risking it all for glory
“Motorsport can be dangerous”
If you’ve bought a ticket for an event the chances are you’ll have seen these words printed somewhere. A sombre reminder of what can go wrong when luck and ability runs out. Of course in many formulae the risks have been mitigated, managed to such an extent that what yesterday would have been unsurvivable, is today thank goodness, merely a spectacular accident. Formula One being a prime example of how technology and good design, both on car and on track, have delivered incredible levels of safety.
Some of course would argue that they have also led to the sport being sanitised to such an extent that the competitors face few if any real challenges and that the circuits that presented them have been removed from the calendar. Nurburgring comes to mind.
However in some areas of motor racing those changes have never happened. Circuits are virtually unchanged. They remain as heart stoppingly challenging and mortally unforgiving as they ever were. The only change is that they are now encountered at blindingly fast speeds.
This is the world of motorcycle road racing made famous by the biggest challenge of them all. The Isle of Man TT.
But look to the left of the island and there you will find what could be considered the historic heart of the sport. And it was to there that NGK Torque travelled, to the aptly named Portrush, to witness what many consider the warm up for the big one. The North West 200.
The 200 has become Ireland’s largest sporting event and one of the world’s fastest road races. Over 100,000 fans line the 9 mile long course (less than a third the length of the TT), to witness their heroes’ astounding bravery as they careen through the countryside between Portstewart, Coleraine and Portrush.
This year average speeds for the superbikes were over 120mph with top speeds in excess of 200mph!!! Take it from those who merely have driven the course, those speeds are scarcely credible. And even less so when you see they are often not much more a country B road. The word awesome was invented for these gladiators. And this is the stuff of which legends are born. And one name is revered above all other. Joey Dunlop.
Fearsomely quick, Joey was the ultimate road racer. The undisputed king. The head of a family dynasty which paid the ultimate price not once, but twice with first the death of Joey and then eight years later, his younger brother Robert. Today, undeterred, Robert’s sons William and Michael continue the family’s incredible legacy.
But paying the ultimate sacrifice in pursuit of doing what they love more than anything is a price the Dunlops and their fellow riders are prepared to pay. And pay they do. At this year’s 200, a 20 year old racer from England, Malachi Mitchell-Thomas (pictured above) fell victim to the unforgiving nature of the course. That was to preface further tragedy at the Isle of Man which this year claimed the lives of a further four competitors bringing the toll to over 250 since the Mountain course came into use in 1911.
But it is the ultimate challenge that road racing represents that draws the riders back again and again. And provides perhaps the most thrilling motor racing spectacle of all. And demands the maximum respect of the men and women who ride the roads, including our very Maria Costello, who has had one of her best years yet, something we think that might be down to her new bike livery. That NGK logo must worth an extra 5mph at least.