I wrote last week in defence of motorcycle road racing after Robert Dunlop, a road racing legend, died at Northern Ireland’s North-West 200 event.

Belfast Telegraph columnist Barry White commented “I join the clamour for a [circuit event] to overtake road racing. Bikes are too fast and too deadly to be let loose anywhere else”

So I used my article to write a letter in defence of road racing to the Belfast Telegraph and they printed it, albeit with a number of editorial amendments and it may have sparked a bit of a debate.

Barry White states (Belfast Telegraph, May 20): “I join the clamour for a [circuit event] to overtake road racing. Bikes are too fast and too deadly to be let loose anywhere else.”

I assume Mr White is also in favour of banning other dangerous pursuits that can lead to fatalities: boxing, equestrian, mountaineering, yachting, soccer, rugby etc.

And all this before we apply the same logic to other endeavours, such as crossing the street. Health and safety zealots act with disregard to reason and good sense.

They don’t care that many dangerous pursuits are the very things that can give meaning, purpose, and enjoyment to human life.

Life is an amazing and precious thing. I agree with the health and safety zealots on that point. But it’s precisely because of how precious and amazing it is that we shouldn’t waste it by being over-cautious. Robert Dunlop’s life was not ruined by death. His life was fulfilled, enjoyed, and lived.

Never taking risks, being too frightened to go outside of the comfort zone, is the highway to a stunted life full of regrets. And yet there remain a few sorry souls who would seek to legislate themselves to a banal immortality.

It was great to see Michael Dunlop racing — and winning — because it epitomised the strength of character and hardiness of spirit that is one of the most wonderful things about humanity. We shouldn’t allow that spirit to be crushed by those too weak of stomach and mind.






I received a reply to this letter yesterday:

I read with interest Stephen Graham’s one-sided arguments in defence of motorcycle road racing (Write Back, May 23).

His statement that fatalities in boxing, mountaineering etc just don’t stand up, as there is no comparison pro-rata of the deaths and serious injuries from racing.

The problem is that all these sports are pedestrian, whereas motorcycles are travelling at up to 200mph and any millisecond mistake leads to dire consequences, not a twisted ankle. I remember attending my first IoM TT races around 1959. One of the riders had come from Australia to race there, bringing his wife and young child. He was killed on the circuit and I remember the sadness I felt for his wife and child.

Unfortunately, the carnage in road racing everywhere goes on year after year.

It is an exciting sport to watch, but, unfortunately, this is due to the high speeds and danger which exists. The price being paid in young lives and the sorrow of those left behind isn’t worth it. The strength of character and hardness of spirit which Mr Graham refers to doesn’t count for much when a loved one is killed.

It would be for this reason that I would implore all riders to stick to circuit racing.

It takes a strong mind to kick against the popular traces, so thanks to Barry White for telling it as it is.




I have also sent a reply to the Belfast Telegraph, but it may or may not get printed. However, for the purposes of argument, here was my reply:

In his response to my previous letter (23/05), O.G. (Monkstown) seems to miss several points (02/06).
Firstly, he claims that my comparison of road racing with other sports is invalid. But, just how is it? If we are to ban road racing on the grounds that it’s dangerous and sometimes fatal we are left with little choice but to ban other pursuits – and not just sports. 100’s of mountaineers die each year and several thousand boxers have died in the past few decades. You don’t need to be travelling at high speed to encounter serious life-threatening risk. Perhaps O.G. can tell us just why a death from road racing is worse than a death from mountaineering, or boxing, or flying into space.
Secondly, O.G. states that “the price being paid in young lives and the sorrow of those left behind isn’t worth it.” Not only might this attitude apply to a multitude of other pursuits, it simply isn’t O.G’s call to make. The point, which O.G. spectacularly misses, is that an intelligent and rational adult is capable of assessing risk for themselves and then deciding whether their enjoyment of the pursuit in question is worth it. It’s an individual decision and we shouldn’t have risk-averse health and safety busybodies dictating to us. It’s downright patronising for O.G. to effectively tell every road racer that they are incapable of making rational choices and must be saved from themselves.
No-one is going to force O.G. onto a motorbike, now if only he would leave others to make their decisions for themselves.
Stephen Graham

Your views on the issue are welcomed too.



PS… BLOG UPDATE… my article writing will be changing a little from now on. I am moving my weekly article from Friday to Monday or Tuesday, and my Thought for the Week will now become a Thought for the Weekend on Friday or Saturday. Weird Wednesdays will remain on Wednesdays!