I have just driven back from the North Coast today and everything there is very busy because of the NW 200, the annual motorcycle road race that attracts thousands of visitors.
If you don’t come from this part of the world, you may not know that Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man are the only places in the UK where motor cycle races are permitted on ordinary roads (closed to ordinary traffic, of course, while the race is going on). This weekend the NW 200 takes place around the triangle of roads linking Portrush, Portstewart and Coleraine. And already the roads to the Triangle are full of motorcyclists travelling to the races. It is estimated that these road races draw more visitors to Northern Ireland than other event.
One of the greatest names in motor cycle road racing was Joey Dunlop, a native of Ballymoney, Co. Antrim, who was killed while racing in Estonia in 2000. In 2005 he was voted the fifth greatest motorcycling icon in history by Motorcycle News. His achievements include three hat-tricks at the Isle of Man TT meeting (1985, 1988 and 2000), where he won 26 races in total. During his career he won the Ulster Grand Prix 24 times. In 1986 he won a fifth consecutive Formula One world title.
He was awarded the MBE in 1986 for his services to the sport, and in 1996 he was awarded the OBE for his humanitarian work for children in Romanian orphanages. Dunlop would often load up his race transporter and deliver clothing and food to the trouble spots of Bosnia and Romania. His humanitarian work was often done without drawing attention. Joey’s brother, Robert, also died while racing at the NW 200 in 2008. They were both much-loved and highly respected in their sport.
Already this week, one rider has been seriously injured in practice. We hope and pray that there will be no serious injuries or loss of life this weekend. But, given the obvious dangers, should we not be concerned about putting human life at risk in such a blatant way? Clearly the thrill of speed and racing are addictive, and in spite of the dangers, many just cannot stay away.
In its commentary on the Sixth Commandment, the Heidelberg Catechism says this:
Q. What does God require in the sixth commandment?
A. That I am not to abuse, hate, injure or kill my neighbour, either with thought, word or gesture, much less by deed, whether by myself or through another, but to lay aside all desire for revenge; and that I do not harm myself or willfully expose myself to danger.
“A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.” Proverbs 22:3 NIV. Whether riding a motor cycle or driving a car, we all need to be prudent.