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NW director saddened by Mark Buckley death

21 May 2012

North West 200 event director Mervyn Whyte says news of Mark Buckley's fatal accident on Saturday was 'like being kicked in the stomach'.

Whyte and the Coleraine Club work tirelessly to carry out countless risk assessments every year in an effort to provide both spectators and competitors with an environment that is as safe as it possibly can be at a motorcycle road race.

After last year's huge disappointment when the event was cancelled, a massive effort was undertaken to ensure the famous sporting spectacle bounced back stronger than ever in 2012.

For so long on Saturday, that looked to be the case with thousands of fans turning out to watch some incredible racing in glorious sunny weather on the beautiful Causeway Coast.

Tragically, the accident involving Mark Buckley on the opening lap of the Superstock race at Mill Road took the life of the 35-year-old from Loch Lomond and cast a dark shadow over the event.

And Whyte told the Belfast News Letter he was reeling from the setback, but vowed to continue working hard to increase safety levels at the North West 200.

"Mark's accident put a downer on the whole day. We had put a massive effort into the event this year because we had so much criticism after what happened in 2011 when the event was cancelled due to the weather, a bomb scare and an oil spill," he said.

"We worked at it for months and looked at how we could improve and make things better this year. Tuesday and Thursday turned out absolutely brilliant overall even
though we had some rain and Saturday's racing was good, but sadly Mark's death has taken the shine off it.

"Accidents like this do happen unfortunately and you can't legislate for it," he added.

"We have an independent safety panel on board who assess things but it's motorcycle racing and it's a high-speed sport - these things can and do happen."

Whyte expressed his sympathy to Mr Buckley's family and admitted he expects anti-road racing critics to have their say on the tragedy over the coming days.

"It hits you for six because we have done everything we can and put so much effort in and it's like being kicked in the stomach.

"We've got to take it on the chin and continue to do what we're doing in relation to safety," he added.

"My sympathy goes out to Mark's family, his wife Jayne and the family circle. I've known them really well and they're a working class family who work hard and have put their money into motorbikes and it's hard to accept it.

"You will have people who will call for racing to be stopped, but we had 100,000 people who came to see the event and that is a massive crowd.

"You have to look at the amount of people who support this sport and who turn up in their thousands to watch it."


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