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RICHARD BRITTON: 1970 - 2005: He put his hand up to stop..I knew then he was in trouble.. suddenly he was thrown off the road I couldn't believe it; PAL RELIVES RACE CRASH TRAGEDY.

Byline: By GRAHAM BARDGETT

A RACE pal told yesterday of the horror moment when Richard Britton was thrown from his bike and killed.

Champion Britton was riding in the 250cc race at Ballybunion, Co Kerry, when his bike chain apparently broke on the first lap. He was thrown against a grass bank, broke his neck and died instantly.

His parents were at the track but it is understood his wife Maria and five-year-old son Loris were at home in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh.

Close friend, Dubliner Mark Curtain, was riding behind Britton when he noticed something wrong.

He said: "I saw that he was in trouble for he had put his hand up to stop.

"The next thing I knew he had hurtled off the road. He was one of my best friends and I can't believe this has happened."

It was the first race held on the course and the last of the road racing season.

Britton, who would have turned 35 next week, was one of a number of riders who helped fill the void left by legend Joey Dunlop, who was killed in Estonia in 2000.

Mervyn Whyte, secretary of the Motorcycle Union of Ireland Ulster Centre and Clerk of the Course for the North West 200, said: "Apparently the chain of the bike broke, instantly wrapping itself round the wheel which was an instant stopper - with such tragic results.

"It's a sad, sad, sad day for motorcycling. Richard Britton had no airs or graces.

"He was a character, good fun and good to work with.

"He gave me a lot of safety improvements on the North West 200 and he will be a huge loss. Another legend cut down in the sport." Britton was taken to Kerry General Hospital, in Tralee, where a nursing officer told the Daily Mirror last night: "It's a terrible tragedy. Everything possible that could be done was done but I'm afraid it wasn't to be."

Joey Dunlop's brother, Robert, 44, said last night: "It's tragic that, like Joey, another of our top racers has been killed this way. This is another cruel blow to the sport

"Motorcycling is a very unforgiving sport. It's very sad for everyone in the motor racing world and our first thoughts must be with his wife and son.

"I know that Richard's mother and father were at the race but his wife wasn't.

"I was at the course. My own son William, who's 21, was racing.

"He was just beside Richard when it happened and he could have been caught up in the crash. Thankfully he wasn't."

Britton's long-time sponsor haulier Patsy O'Kane said: "I'm devastated. Richard was like a son to me and I sponsored him for many years."

Billy Nutt, former organiser of the North West 200, said: "Richard was a great character among the riders.

"And he was a man from whom you always got s straight answer. His death will devastate the sport."

Britton was a former winner of the North West 200 and his most recent success was at Killalane in Co Dublin last weekend.

He was one of the top road racers of his generation, winning at national races throughout Ireland.

Britton was a double Irish and Ulster road race champion and won one international race, the Production event at the 2000 North West 200.

He also won the Regal 600cc series on four occasions and was a podium finisher at both the Isle of Man TT and Ulster Grand Prix. Born in England, Britton moved to Northern Ireland as a child and began his racing career at Aghadowey, Co Derry, in 1991.

Although generally regarded as a road racer, he also enjoyed short circuit racing and listed Bishopscourt and the North West 200 as his favourite tracks.

He enjoyed mixed fortunes in 2005 and parted company with the DMRR Honda team in July, signing for the Vitrans Honda team for the Ulster Grand Prix.

Britton previously raced for Schimmel Racing and then enjoyed a long-term association with Garvagh businessman PJ O'Kane.

CAPTION(S):

HIGH AND MIGHTY; Richard celebrating his race win at Killalane, Co Dublin, last week; SHOCK: Spectators at the scene of the fatal Ballybunion Road Race crash yesterday; HERO: Richard after winning the Production race at the North West 200 in 2000; LOVING: Richard with his son Loris
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Article Details
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUIR
Date:Sep 19, 2005
Words:720
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