The road racing community is praying for the recovery of popular Italian rider Dario Cecconi, who sustained serious injuries following a crash at the Tandragee 100 on Saturday.
On Monday, the 38-year-old remained in a critical condition in Craigavon Area Hospital, where he has been treated since the incident.
Mr Cecconi is understood to have suffered severe head and chest injuries after crashing on the final lap of the Senior Support race on the approach to Bells Crossroads. A second rider escaped with minor injuries.
The final two events on the schedule – the Supertwins and feature Superbike races – were abandoned and an investigation was conducted at the scene, which remained sealed off for some time after the roads around the 5.3-mile course had officially opened.
Clerk of the Course Anne Forsythe told the News Letter she had been to see Mr Cecconi in hospital.
“He is such a lovely lad who just loved racing at Tandragee,” she said.
“He was always happy and was never without a smile on his face. He did a lot to promote Tandragee across Europe.
“I went up to see him in hospital but he is very poorly. He’s still critical and his family are in the process of travelling over. It’s best that I don’t comment on what may or may not have happened while an investigation is on-going.
“We will need an interpreter so we can talk to his family first because I would rather that they heard the details from us first-hand,” she added.
“It’s just been very unfortunate and it’s one of those things that you can’t legislate for.”
Forsythe, who was acting as the Clerk of the Course for the second time at her home race meeting, admitted the remainder of the day’s racing was in jeopardy due to the weather, even before the serious crash late in the afternoon.
“With the weather, it was getting worse as the day went on. Even if the incident hadn’t been quite so serious, I’m not sure we would have got through to the end because it was so bad,” she said.
“We were already at the stage of getting updates on the conditions around the course. The event had been declared a wet race earlier, but we wanted to have a look at the situation and make a plan.
“Personally I’m not one for calling off racing in the wet if the condition of road is good. Conditions had been improving slightly during the Senior Support race, but after the incident occurred things began to deteriorate again,” she added.
“It was a disappointing end to the day because things had looked so promising earlier. In terms of spectators, I’m in no doubt that the crowds were up on last year.
“It reminded me of the ’80s on Saturday because there seemed to be such big crowds. It’s not official, but I would say there must have been over 15,000 people at the event.”
Forsythe thanked the spectators for turning out in force to support the event after recent appeals for fans to get behind the sport in an effort to help combat soaring insurance and organisational costs.
“After all the effort we put in and the help from volunteers and other clubs, it was shaping up to be a fantastic start to the season. The spectators came out and were buying programmes and the club is very appreciative of their support.
“Many stayed when the rain came on and they were very patient. The crowds helped created a terrific atmosphere and I want to thank them for their patience on the day,” she added.
“Sadly, we just have to gather ourselves up again and move forward.”
Italian motorcycling website, Road Racing Core, posted an article on Monday saying Mr Cecconi was ‘surrounded by his most trusted Northern Ireland friends’ while his family makes the trip over from Italy.
The website reported: “As the family is reaching him, Dario is not left alone for a minute, surrounded by his most trusted Northern Irish friends in a land he calls ‘my second home’.
“Escorted to the Craigavon hospital by the police, Dario was subjected to the treatment of the Northern Ireland staff but, after more than 36 hours, the situation remains very critical.”
A Just Giving page has been set up to help raise £2,500 for Mr Cecconi’s family.