Macau GP: Distraught Irwin dismisses victory in Far East as 'irrelevant'

Glenn Irwin became the first rider since Phillip McCallen in 1996 to win the Macau Grand Prix but there was little cause for celebration as the race was overshadowed by a fatal crash on Saturday.

Monday, 20th November 2017, 5:11 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 1:50 am
Glenn Irwin was visibly upset as he returned to the paddock following Dan Hegarty's fatal crash in the Macau Grand Prix. Picture: Stephen Davison/Pacemaker.

Dan Hegarty (31), from Nottingham, died following a horror incident at the fast Fisherman’s Bend section of the 3.8-mile Guia street course on lap six.

Live TV footage showed the extent of the carnage as distressing pictures captured Mr Hegarty lying prone at the roadside after crashing his Top Gun Racing Honda into a barrier.

His helmet had become detached and one of his protective boots was also visible lying some distance away from where he came to rest.

English rider Dan Hegarty (Top Gun Racing Honda) in action at the Macau Grand Prix. The 31-year-old tragically lost his life in a crash on Saturday at Fisherman's Bend.

The upsetting nature of the footage drew strong criticism on social media from many who had witnessed the incident as they watched the race live.

Carrickfergus man Irwin was also visibly upset after the race was red-flagged. The 27-year-old later hit out after riders were brought back to the paddock past the scene of the crash, saying on Twitter: ‘Disgraceful also that we weren’t stopped under a red flag, nobody should ever have to see that’.

Riding the PBM Be Wiser Ducati, Irwin was leading two-time winner Peter Hickman (SMT Bathams BMW) by 1.1 seconds when the red flag went out on lap seven of the scheduled 12-lap distance.

The leading duo were over eight seconds clear of Hickman’s team-mate Michael Rutter in third, who in turn had almost three seconds in hand over Martin Jessopp (Riders Motorcycles BMW).

English rider Dan Hegarty (Top Gun Racing Honda) in action at the Macau Grand Prix. The 31-year-old tragically lost his life in a crash on Saturday at Fisherman's Bend.

Sadly, Hegarty’s fatal crash brought the race to a premature end, casting a dark cloud over the 51st running of the famous motorcycle race in the Far East.

Initially it was unclear whether or not the race would be re-run, but confirmation soon emerged that a result a been declared based on positions at the end of the fifth lap.

Irwin added another big win to his achievements this season following a memorable Superbike success at the North West 200 and his maiden British Superbike triumph at Silverstone, but he dismissed the result as ‘irrelevant’.

He also revealed that a technical issue with the Panigale almost forced him to pull out at the beginning of the race.

“I appreciate all the congratulations but the result is irrelevant and all our thoughts are with Dan’s team and family at this very sad time,” said Irwin, who was making only his second appearance at Macau following an eye-catching debut in 2016.

“As far as the race is concerned, I had a non-mechanical technical issue which nearly caused me to pull in on the opening lap, but I adjusted my style and it worked OK. It's a very sad end to what has been a successful week.”

A statement from the organisers said Mr Hegarty died from his injuries on his way to hospital.

“The race was immediately stopped and Daniel was transferred to hospital. It is with great regret that we have to announce that the British rider succumbed to his injuries en-route to the Conde S. Januario Hospital.

“Daniel’s family and team have been contacted, and the Committee will ensure every assistance is extended to them.”

The English rider switched to road racing after a serious accident at Thruxton in 2010, which left him with a badly injured elbow.

He won the TT Privateer’s Championship in 2016 before joining the Top Gun Racing team this season, and had previously competed at the North West 200 and Ulster Grand Prix. Hegarty only made his debut at Macau last year.

The Top Gun team was also hit by tragedy in August after Gavin Lupton died following a crash at Dundrod.

Hegarty’s accident was the first fatal crash at Macau since Portuguese competitor Luis Carreira was killed in qualifying in 2012. The 35-year-old also came off his Suzuki at Fisherman’s Bend.

A sombre podium ceremony was held after the race but Irwin, runner-up Hickman and Rutter reluctantly went through the motions against the backdrop of tragedy.

Somerset rider Jessopp, Manxman Conor Cummins (Padgett’s Honda) and Gary Johnson (Briggs Kawasaki) from Lincolnshire were the top six.

Dean Harrison finished seventh on the Silicone Engineering Kawasaki ahead of Lee Johnston (BMW HP4).

Michael Sweeney was 17th, Steve Heneghan 22nd and Davy Morgan 23rd. Derek Sheils was an early retirement on the Burrows Suzuki.