Death of ‘Flying Doctor’ John casts shadow over Skerries race meeting

Ballymena man Neil Kernohan stays ahead of Sam Dunlop and Sean Leonard in the 125 race. Picture: Roy Adams.

Ballymena man Neil Kernohan stays ahead of Sam Dunlop and Sean Leonard in the 125 race. Picture: Roy Adams.

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The death, following a practice crash, of Dr. John Hinds, cast a shadow over last weekend’s Axa Bikecare Skerries 100.

Dr John was one of what had become known as the Flying Doctors, or the MCUI Medical Team. An appreciation appears below.

Glarryford man Barry Davidson leads Freddie Stewart, Alan Brew and Billy Lyle in the Senior Classic race. Picture: Roy Adams.

Glarryford man Barry Davidson leads Freddie Stewart, Alan Brew and Billy Lyle in the Senior Classic race. Picture: Roy Adams.

The opening race of the day was the Senior Support. Right from the flag Kevin Fitzpatrick dictated the pace. He was chased hard by Timmy Elwood and Seanie Smith. Following a slow start it wasn’t long before Dean Campbell started to catch the leaders, but almost unnoticed, Yorkshire man Steven Proctor was moving up on corrected time. Campbell retired just after the halfway point in the race and by then Proctor was well in touch. Although Kevin Fitzpatrick crossed the line first, Proctor took the race win by 1.4 seconds. Lisburns Timmy Elwood finished in third place.

The big bikes were next. William Dunlop was the early leader, with Derek McGee and Alan Bonner well in touch. Derek Sheils went to the front just on the halfway point of the race, and although Dunlop tried his best, he just wasn’t able to put any kind of a move on the Dublin man, who finally took the win by .4 of a second. Bonner dropped off the pace to take third place, 8.7 further back. Our only local competitor in this race was Kells man Dennis Booth. He finished in 11th place.

The next race was the Junior Classic event. Barry Davidson led right from the start and although Ed Manly didn’t have a great start he soon pulled through to get right on Barrys rear wheel. The two had a great race for a couple of laps, passing and repassing each other a number of times. Barry took the win, with Manly dropping back on the final lap to finish 6.6 seconds off the winner. Sean Leonard was third, some 30 seconds further off the pace. Phil Shaw took the win in the 250 class. He beat Alan Jackson by almost 4 seconds with Richard Ford third.

Just before the next race, news came to the circuit that Dr John had passed away. A number of riders pulled out of the meeting as a mark of their respect after that. The combined 250/400 race was led by Neil Kernohan for the first few laps. Before long, however, Sam Wilson closed him down and by the halfway point had gone ahead. Kernohan hung on gamely but his fellow Ballymena resident controlled the pace after that, finishing 1.5 seconds ahead. Tommy Henry made it a Co Antrim 1-2-3 with his third place, some 12 seconds behind.

Rathkenny Track & Enduro rider Veronika Hankcyova had a chat with race fan Elaine Daly. Picture: Roy Adams.

Rathkenny Track & Enduro rider Veronika Hankcyova had a chat with race fan Elaine Daly. Picture: Roy Adams.

In the 400 class Czech Republic man Michael Dokoupil, riding for the Ballymena based RT&E team, ran out as winner. He was never really that hard pushed, moving away by 11 seconds from Skerries man David Howard. Scot Vic Allan was third.

John Horgan was the early leader in the Supertwin/Junior Support race. By the time the leaders had reached me on lap two, Timmy Elwood, a circuit newcomer, was ahead, and continued to build on that. Jason Cash came through to second place in the middle part of the race, with Horgan slipping to third. Riding the locally based RT&E bike, Veronika Hankocyva finished 7th.

The GP125 race was next on the cards. Paul Robinson was the man on form for the first few laps, but by then Paul Jordan had got his head down. With a couple of laps to go, Jordan got ahead, with Robinson having no answer, the Magherafelt man took the race win. Unusually, Nigel Moore was off the pace, finishing well back in third place. Ballymena man Neil Kernohan, who in fairness at some 6’2” is hardly an ideal size for a 125, took fourth place, far from outpaced.

There was, quite simply, nobody in the same class as Derek McGee in the Supertwins race. From the start he took off and nobody even looked like they were going to catch him. The race was red flagged on the fourth lap due to an accident but in the 3 laps that run, McGee had an 11 second lead over Paul Jordan and Michael Dokoupil.

McGee led the Supersport 600 race from the start. By the second circuit William Dunlop had gone ahead with McGee right behind. That was the result, with Dunlop winning by 1.8 seconds. Ballymoney man Seamus Elliott was a distant third place. Neil Kernohan, straight off the 125GP bike and onto his R6, finished in 11th place while Dennis Booth was 14th.

Robert McCrum did his usual demolition job in the Senior Classic event. He led from the start, pulling out a winning margin of almost 5 seconds over Richard Ford. John Scott from Carryduff finished in third place. Barry Davidson was the leading 500cc bike for a while, but as the race progressed both Ed Manly and Manxman Allan Brew got ahead of the local man.

Armoy man Tommy Henry took a start to finish win in the 400cc championship race. At one point Brian Coomey slipped into the lead, but on the next lap, at the same place, Henry dived round the outside of the Cork man and back into a lead he held till the finish. Coomster pulled back to within a second of Henry, while Noel Bertram finished in third place. Veronika Hankcoyva was 11th on the RT&E ER6.

The Grand Final didn’t turn out to be the race we had all hoped. Derek Sheils hit the front from the start, chased by William Dunlop. Alan Bonner slipped off at Baldongen on the first lap and whether distracted by the yellow flags or what, Michael Dunlop took to the slip road.

By the time the crash was sorted out Michael was so far back he was never going to be able to make any kind of an impact of the race result. Sheils took the race win, with the elder Dunlop brother 4.1 back. John Walsh finished third.

Sadly, the 2015 Skerries will always be remembered for the wrong reasons. I feel great credit must go to the medical team and to the race organisers who, in the most difficult of circumstances imaginable, delivered a well run meeting.

DR JOHN - A TRIBUTE

I never, in a million years, thought I would have to write this.

In a sport where the term ‘legend’ can be defined by the fact that you are recognised by your first name, we have Joey, Robert, William, Michael and in the same breath, Dr John.

Dr John, whose day job was an anaesthetist in Craigavon Hospital, was recognised at one of the best trauma doctors in the world. Just a couple of weeks ago I saw him work with Ian Morrell. He worked for almost 45 minutes before transferring Ian to a helicopter. Ian is alive now because of that. What John Hinds did for bike racing can never be overstated.

There are literally dozens of riders who are alive today because of his intervention. He helped pioneer treatment on scene, and this is often the difference in a fatality or a recovery.

I can’t even begin to understand what his family are going through now and to them I extend my deepest sympathy. Dr John had so much more to give and I have no doubt would have gone on to be a world teacher.