The death of William Dunlop in a practice crash at the Skerries 100 produced an outpouring of grief and a torrent of tributes from those involved in the motorcycle racing community in Northern Ireland.
For not only was William a member of the legendary Dunlop family, he was one of the most popular among both fans and fellow riders alike.
A career which, for the 32 year old, started in 2000 and accumulated 108 Irish National Road race wins also included four at the North West 200 and seven at the Ulster Grand Prix. He also claimed five podiums in the Isle of Man TT.
He, and younger brother Michael, were the sons of Robert whose death during practice at the North West 200 in 2008 prompted one of the most remarkable startline confrontations in Irish racing history and spoke volumes not only about the Dunlop family but the way road racing is regarded in Ireland. The brothers were advised not to take part but felt strongly that they should and wheeled their bikes onto the grid giving the organisers no choice but to start the race.
Their uncle Joey, the most famous Irish sportsman of his day with a record number of 26 TT wins, was killed in 2000 while competing at a minor event in Estonia, a part of the world which benefited from his charitable work.
Mervyn Whyte, North West 200 Race Director, said: ”William was an absolute gentlemen. I couldn’t believe it when I heard the news - my heart just broke. He was a quiet unassuming lad and a brilliant road racer. I never had any issue with him and he would have helped you and supported you in any way he could to improve the sport.”
Ryan Farquhar said: ”It’s another sad day for road racing. We started racing at much the same time, came through the ranks together and had a few battles over the years. We all know road racing is dangerous and when it goes wrong our thoughts are very much with the family, friends and sponsors who are left behind.”
Speaking at Knockhill, North West 200 winner and BSB rider Glenn Irwin said: ”He was so humble and my thoughts are with his Mum Louise, partner Janine and the family. He was very much a family man and I know he adored his daughter Ella. The whole thing is heartbreaking. I look up to all the road racing guys and it was an honour to share a track with him.”