TRIBUTES TO VICTOR

THE McCook family in Armoy have joined with motorbike fans across north Antrim and beyond to express their sympathy to the family and friends of Victor Gilmore, the Ballymoney motorcyclist tragically killed during a road race event in County Dublin.

42-year-old Mr Gilmore died on Sunday - the day before an inquest was held in Belfast into the death of 75-year-old Hill McCook, a spectator who died during last year's Armoy Road Races after being struck when a motorbike ridden by Victor left the road.

Mr McCook's son Alex (47), speaking to the Times on Monday after the Inquest, said his family's thoughts were with Victor's family circle following the weekend tragedy.

He said the McCook family had always considered the circumstances of the death of their father as a "freak accident".

"The McCook family would like to express our condolences to the Gilmore family following Victor's tragic death.

"We did not blame any one for what happened and had kept in touch with Victor following the death of our father who was killed in a freak accident."

Mr McCook said Monday's inquest was an emotional day for his family but he said although his father had been sitting at a part of the Armoy track which was not prohibited, no one could have predicted the way the motorbike would have moved during the "unfortunate freak accident".

Victor Gilmore, who lived at Vow Road near Ballymoney, will be laid to rest at Bushside Presbyterian Church on Thursday after a funeral service in his native Ballymena.

Following the loss of another of north Antrim's motorbike heroes to add to the deaths of the legendary Joey and Robert Dunlop the close-knit motorcycling community is in mourning.

Top riders Ryan Farquhar has said the safety of road racing needs to be examined closely.

North Antrim MP, Ian Paisley Jnr, told the Ballymoney Times, the comments from Ryan Farquhar need to be considered by experts.

Mr Paisley Jnr, himself a big fan of motorbikes, said: "I am saddened to hear of the tragic death of one of the local road racers.

"Victor would have been a senior figure in road racing in North Antrim and I would like to express my condolences to his family circle..

"It is just a tragedy and I want to express my sympathy to his family. Victor was well known in around the paddock at various races and like anyone who follows motorcycle racing I am really sad that we have lost a fine man.

"I don't know how we address this. There needs to be as many safety measures as possible and I just hope something good can come out of it.

"Ryan Farquhar made some good comments about limiting the size of engines at the smaller meetings and the Motorcycling Union maybe need to look at it and keep the big machines for races like the North West 200.

"I think it is interesting that someone like Ryan has said something like that and the experts should examine the comments," said Ian Paisley Jnr.

North Antrim MLA Declan O'Loan said: "I would like to extend my sympathies and the sympathies of those I represent to the Gilmore family and the wider sporting fraternity in the area following the sad passing at the weekend.

"It must be extremely difficult for them at this time and my thoughts and prayers are with Mr Gilmore's loved ones."

Mayor of Ballymoney, Councillor Bill Kennedy, the Clerk of the Course at Armoy Road Races, said Victor's death was a huge blow to the area.

Mr Kennedy said: "I knew Victor very well. He was a great character around the paddock for the last 12 to 14 years. He always was available to stop for a chat and he was larger than life. He worked hard and he loved racing and I was completely shocked when I got the phone call about his death.

"He will be sadly missed around the racing scene but more so by his family. It is another blow to Ballymoney and road racing. We all know it is a dangerous sport and it is a tragedy he died in the sport he loved. He was a well experienced rider."

Victor was father of Craig, Jodie and Nicole and son of Jim and Mabel.

His funeral service will take place in Wellington Presbyterian Church, Ballymena, on Thursday at 1pm with interment afterwards at Bushvale Presbyterian Church burying ground near Stranocum.

Donations in lieu of flowers, if desired, may be sent to James Henry Funeral Services 100 Broughshane Street, Ballymena for the 'Injured Riders Fund'.

Mr Gilmore lost his life through injuries sustained in a high-speed crash at the weekend's Killalane Road Races.

A joiner by trade, Mr Gilmore grew up in Riverdale, Tullygarley, near Ballymena, and attended Camphill Primary and Ballee High School. He moved to Dungannon before settling in Ballymoney with his family.

He still has close associations with Ballymena and is survived by two children from his first marriage and a baby girl born earlier this year to his current partner.

Mr Gilmore, known widely by his nickname 'Happy', had already competed in the 250cc and Open class when tragedy struck on Sunday. A marshal was also injured in the collision during the 600cc race.

Victor was a very experienced racer having competed in races at the Isle of Man TT, different races in UK and Ireland and across Europe.

He entered his first race at Nutts Corner in 1996. He won the Clubmans short circuit championship three years later and developed into a regular top six finisher at national road level.

A statement issued by the race organisers said: "It is with great sadness that the Loughshinny Motorcycle Club confirms that Victor Gilmore from Ballymoney, father of Craig, Jodie, Nicole and son of Jim and Mabel succumbed to injuries sustained in an racing incident during the 600cc event. He will be dearly missed by his family, team and the road racing family."