Tributes are being paid after the tragic death of Ballymoney racer William Dunlop following a crash at the Skerries 100 races in Co Dublin.
The son of the late Robert and nephew of the legendary Joey, William was making his return to the sport after pulling out of this year’s Isle of Man TT to be with his pregnant partner, who is expecting their second child.
William Dunlop: Skerries road races to go ahead ‘at request of family’ after tragic death
He suffered fatal injuries in an incident during open practice on Saturday shortly after 5pm. Dunlop was racing on his Temple Golf Club Yamaha. The crash is understood to have happened at the Sam’s Tunnel section of the course.
The 32-year-old was a winner at both the North West 200 and the Ulster GP.
A statement on behalf of the Skerries 100 organisers read: “The Loughshinny Motorcycle Supporters Club, organisers of the Skerries 100, deeply regrets to announce that competitor William Dunlop of Ballymoney, Co. Antrim, has passed away following injuries received in a tragic accident that occurred during practice which took place today 7th July 2018.
“The Loughshinny Motorcycle Supporters Club extends their heartfelt sympathy to William Dunlop’s family and friends. Our thoughts and prayers are with them at this very sad time.”
William’s father Robert was killed following an accident in practice at the NW200 in 2008 while uncle Joey died after a crash in Estonia in 2000.
Tributes are flowing in for the much-loved racer and brother of Michael, who is also competing at the County Dublin event.
Those have been led by the Armoy Motorcycle Road Racing Club, who said:
“The Armoy Motorcycle Road Racing Club are beyond devastated to learn of the death of our club member and local road racing legend William Dunlop, after he was involved in an incident in today’s practice sessions at the Skerries 100.
“Our deepest sympathies go to his partner Janine and daughter Ella, mother Louise, brother Michael and Daniel, Granny May, the Dunlop family, William’s friends, team and wider circle.
“Such a lovely fella on & off the bike. He will be missed so much by us all.”
Dundrod & District Motorcycle club said: “As a sport, road racing is like no other. It can bring the highest of highs, but it can also sometimes be incredibly cruel.
“From all at the Dundrod & District Motorcycle club our thoughts are with the friends, family and many fans of William Dunlop, who sadly lost his life at the Skerries 100 today.”
North West 200 organisers said they were “absolutely devastated to learn of the death of William Dunlop in an incident today at the Skerries 100.”
“Our sincere sympathies are with his partner Jeanine, his daughter, brothers, mother and extended family.”
North Antrim DUP MLA Mervyn Storey said: “This is a tragedy beyond belief. The Dunlop family has again been plunged into grief. William Dunlop was a legend in his own right, on and off the road. He was a household name.
“Everyone in Northern Ireland will be saddened by this news. However the sadness will be particularly felt in his home town of Ballymoney. The Dunlop family are well known and greatly respected in our town and further afield, we feel the great loss and sadness at this news.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire family circle at their time. The entire family circle will be remembered by everyone during this difficult time. We assure them of our support as they face the coming days.”
Sinn Fein North Antrim MLA Philip McGuigan said Dunlop was “a hero to many”.
“This is a terrible tragedy and my thoughts and prayers are with the Dunlop family at this difficult time,” he said.
“Motorbike racing is very popular throughout Ireland but nowhere more is that the case than in North Antrim.”