Northern Ireland

Tandragee motorbike rider Dario Cecconi dies after crash

Dario Cecconi Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Mr Cecconi was taken to Craigavon Area Hospital after the crash

A rider has died after he crashed during a motorbike race in County Armagh at the weekend.

Italian Dario Cecconi, 38, sustained critical injuries in the last lap of the senior support race at the Tandragee 100 on Saturday, 23 April.

Race organisers said Mr Cecconi was a "much-loved competitor, who called the Tandragee 100 his home".

"Dario even had a tattoo of the course on his arm," the North Armagh Motorcycle and Car Club added.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Race organisers said Mr Cecconi did much to promote the Tandragee 100 across Europe

This year was Mr Cecconi's sixth year racing at Tandragee.

Anne Forsythe, clerk of the course, said "When Dario first came to Tandragee in 2012 and was asked for his opinion of Irish road racing, he replied: 'I come in my van, by myself, for about 45 hours only to travel 45 hours back home again and I love it.

'There is a special atmosphere we can find only there. No other tracks give us this thrill, and no other meetings give us the sense of being part of a family'."

In a statement, she said that when he was asked why he loved racing, he replied that it made him "feel free".

"The officials and the club extend their sympathy to Dario's family and partner at this saddest of times," she added.

Philip McCallen, a former road racer who lives in Tandragee, said Mr Cecconi was a "great figure at the event".

He added: "He came up every year by van, he'd been here five times before."

Mr McCallen said that the incident appeared to be an "unfortunate accident", although there would be a full investigation into what happened.

"Organisers work day and night to make this event and this sport safer.

"Our riders have a passion for what we do and Dario loved doing it."

He added: "The governing body and the government do all they can to make sure there is plenty of oversight and we analyse every single crash to find out what happened.

"But you can't prevent every accident.

"We just have to find a way to make it safer and keep Dario as a hero in our mind".

Mr Cecconi's death is the first at the Tandragee 100 event since 2014, when rider Noel Murphy died in a crash.

In 2008, Martin Finnegan died at an accident at Marlacoo Corner while, in 2007, John Donnan died near the start-finish area while trying to avoid another competitor.

Last May, English racer Malachi Mitchell Thomas died at the North West 200, Northern Ireland's biggest road-racing event.

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