Tributes are being paid to five-times TT winner Robert Dunlop, who has died following a crash at the North West 200.
Dunlop, 47, suffered severe chest injuries in the crash during Thursday night’s practice at the Port Rush circuit.
He was rushed to Causeway Hospital in Coleraine following the accident on the high-speed approach to Mathers Cross, but died shortly before 10pm.
Fellow Northern Ireland rider Darren Burns was also injured and remains in hospital.
Dunlop, brother of TT legend Joey, was a hugely successful and popular road racer. He was the most successful rider at the North West, with 15 wins, and had tasted victory at the Isle of Man TT five times.
In 1994 he suffered life-threatening injuries in a crash during the TT, but fought his way back to fitness and returned to racing.
Much of his time in recent years had been dedicated to helping his sons William and Michael with their road racing careers. The pair are two of the sport’s brightest rising stars and were on track at the North West when the crash happened.
The Ballymoney man was due to compete in the TT in just over three weeks, contesting the Ultra Lightweight race at the Billown circuit.
Isle of Man Tourism and Leisure Minister Adrian Earnshaw has paid his tribute.
‘I was really saddened to hear this news.’
‘Robert was a great rider who has been coming to the Isle of Man for well over 25 years. He first came as a newcomer at the Manx Grand Prix in 1983, a race that he won beating Steve Hislop and Ian Lougher.’
‘Robert rode a variety of bikes over the course of his career and although he was overshadowed by his brother’s success he was an exceptional rider in his own right. He was very determined and overcame serious injury to achieve some notable successes.’
‘Everyone in the Isle of Man was looking forward to welcoming him back to compete this year at Castletown.’
‘He will be sorely missed.’
North West Clerk of Course Mervyn Whyte also paid tribute.
He told the BBC:
‘Our thoughts and prayers are with Robert's family and we extend our deepest sympathies to his wife Louise, children William, Daniel and Michael and wider family circle.’
‘Robert was one of Northern Ireland's best known and most experienced riders, who will always been remembered for his infectious personality and love for road racing.’
Dunlop’s death also drew tributes from the political world in Northern Ireland.
First Minister Ian Paisley said:
‘This is a tragedy that will be felt deeply by the people of Northern Ireland. Robert was one of our greatest sportsmen and will be sadly missed.’
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness added:
‘Robert, like his brother Joey before him, was a tremendous ambassador for his sport. I also offer my sincerest sympathies to his family.’
Fans have also been posting tributes to Robert Dunlop on the Official website of the Isle of Man TT. Read the tributes and add your own.