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9 Jul 2016

Vauxhall NW 200 International 2016



Text and Photos: Reinis Babrovskis

For Malachi Mitchell-Thomas 1996-2016

One doesn’t become a great racer; one is born a great racer.

Road Racing is a sport for the most fearless, insane and fastest riders in the world; it is as exciting and spectacular as it is dangerous. Danger is lurking around every corner of the track; the riders risk everything, pushing their bikes at speeds above 200 mph on public roads, and  all this risk for what: to claim that top spot of the podium or is there more to it? This dangerous race with the death is criticized by many; however, for riders it is their life, and without that there is nothing left.

A recent tragedy and the loss of a young life sparked a whole new debate regarding the safety and future of the North West 200 race. Has the road racing really gone too far, should it be taken away from us? Almost everybody in Northern Ireland directly or indirectly has been involved in road racing in one way or another - be it spectating, marshaling or having family members taking part in it, and none of them could imagine the life without it. Road Racing is part of the culture, just like bull fights in Spain or boxing in Latin America.

All I know thousands of spectators worldwide travel to Northern Ireland to spectate, participate and be there for the North West 200 and that cannot be taken away from them. Neither it is for us to decide if we allow or do not allow these riders to risk their lives for it. It is their choice, agree or disagree.

So all we can, in my opinion, and should do: is try to make this sport safer and better. An entry fee to the event with the money to be donated for more safety equipment and air/ground medical support should be a first step towards it in my opinion. Spectator education is equally important to avoid casualties like it has happened in the past. We all should work together to make it a safer and more enjoyable sport. It is part of the Northern Irish culture and always should remain to be one, in the safest way possible. 

The 8 mile open road of North West 200 takes the riders around the towns of Portrush, Portstewart and Coleraine along the beautiful coast. It is one of the most beautiful driving roads in Ireland and I can see the appeal of the riders to risk it all o enjoy them; I highly doubt they do it for the sake of a shiny trophy.

The 2016 event was shaping out to be an amazing week of racing with amazing weather and plenty of close fights, action and drama., that is until...

Halfway through the Super Twin race on Saturday a red flag was waved to the riders, bringing the race to a stop. As always this meant a major incident had taken place; and whilst everybody hoped for something minor like an oil leak or small crash, the reality was far worse...

What had been an amazing week of  Northern Irish Road Racing yet again ended with a tragedy just few corners away. A young talented rider from Northern Ireland had crashed and lost hist life.

Many riders have lost their lives on open public roads, many have lost them whilst racing on public roads, and probably that won't change anytime soon. They are who they are, they do what they want to do. We might agree, or disagree, but it is not our decision to make. Many people are left with this pain in their hearts for the rest of their lives, but one thing is for sure, it would be selfish to take away the thing these riders loved the most - open roads and freedom to race.
1996-2016 Malachi Mitchell-Thomas

In memory of Malachi Mitchell-Thomas, you will be missed...


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