Safety of North West 200 questioned as injured spectator in critical condition

North West Crash Victim airlifted to hospitalA spectator and rider were airlifted to hospital after a crash involving three motorcycles at the Vauxhall International North West 200 on Saturday.

The crash happened on a straight section of the course between York corner and the Mill Road Roundabout in Portstewart during the opening Superstock race. The injured spectator, Violet McAfee, a mother of one was hit by a bike whilst standing in her neighbour’s driveway.

She was airlifted to Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital as was injured rider Stephen Thompson from County Antrim. Both are now in a stable condition.

Austrian racer Horst was also involved in the accident and received treatment in nearby Causeway Hospital in Coleraine. The third rider, Dean Harrison from Bradford escaped injury and was able to take part in the afternoon races.

Picture taken by spectator seconds after crash

GoPro footage from one of the bikes has since been released in which the bike can be seen clipping a curb and skidding down the road. The Superstock race was subsequently cancelled.

The crash has somewhat overshadowed Carrickfergus motorcyclist Alastair Seeley’s achievement of matching the late Robert Dunlop’s record of 15 wins at the event.

Alatair Seeley matches NW record wins

The Tyco BMW racer took two victories on the 8.9 mile triangle course fending off stiff competition to win both the Supersport and the Superbike races. Seeley lost out on a hat trick to Lee Johnston in the afternoon’s Superstock race. Whilst Belfast’s Jeremy McWilliams won the Supertwins race.

The feature Superbike event could have been Seeley’s chance to exceed Dunlop’s record by securing a sixteenth win but the final race was cancelled due to hazardous weather conditions as winds of up to 40mph swept in from the north coast.

Saturday’s accident has once again raised questions about the future of the road race as many argue it is simply too dangerous as over the years 18 riders have died taking part.

However after the practice sessions last Thursday TV personality and motorbike racer Guy Martin criticised the track saying there were too many safety chicanes making the track boring to race.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R5swObgNu7M&feature=player_detailpage

Martin apologised to race director Mervyn Whyte just before the fateful race on Saturday morning saying the chicanes were, ”a necessary evil.” Whyte was  quick to correct him calling them a ”requirement” helping ensure the safety of participants.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YzgK4xaD7Os&feature=player_detailpage

Whyte described Saturday’s crash as a ”freak” incident and promised that a full investigation will be carried out.

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