One of Northern Ireland’s best-known sporting figures, Liam Beckett has revealed he is taking an “indefinite break” from road racing following the tragic death of William Dunlop.
The BBC pundit said the recent spate of fatalities and injuries in the world of motorcyling – particularly the loss of his close friend William – has left him with “a dagger in my heart”.
Mr Beckett, a long-time friend of the Dunlop family, said the wound would take time to heal and he was therefore “putting the brakes” on road racing for the foreseeable future.
Writing in his Sunday Life column, he said: “I genuinely feel it would be best if I took some time out now in order to collect my thoughts and then see where it takes me”.
He also paid tribute to William’s heartbroken mother Louise for her support, adding: “She has been a source of great strength and encouragement to me towards making whatever my final decision should be, particularly in her own time of need.”
William, 32, lost his life during a practice run at the Skerries 100 race in Co Dublin earlier this month.
Thousands of mourners gathered in his home town of Ballymoney on July 11 to bid a final farewell to the widely loved road racer.
Mr Beckett said he was due to be in the BBC Radio Ulster commentary box to cover two days racing scheduled at the Ulster Grand Prix in a few weeks time, but had informed his bosses of his “unavailability” in the wake of recent events.
“I know I would really struggle to be professional, totally dedicated or indeed try to sound excited when quite honestly my heart is still breaking,” he wrote in his column.
The Ballymoney man said that while road racing is in his blood and that he is still “full of admiration” for all those involved in the sport, he continued: “At this particular moment in time I feel it is now time to let my head rule my heart and not the other way around.”
He said he hoped to “find the urge and desire” to return to road racing at some stage.
Speaking to the News Letter after William’s death, Mr Beckett said the tragedy had “ripped the hearts out of everyone”.
He added: “Hand on heart, I have never heard anyone say a bad word about William Dunlop. The lad was a breath of fresh air when I was in his company, whether at a football match or when we were playing golf together.”