By Kyle White Belfast Newsletter.
Armoy Road Races Clerk of the Course Bill Kennedy said tragic Limavady road racer Jack Oliver ‘lived to race motorbikes’.
The 22-year-old was killed in a crash at the Kells Road Races in Co Meath on Sunday, where he was making his debut at the 2.25-mile Crossakiel course.
Jack came off his TJR Kawasaki in the Supersport 600 race, which was red-flagged before the remainder of the event was abandoned.
It was the first time the promising young Northern Ireland rider had raced in the mainstream Supersport class, making the step up to compete against experienced riders such as Michael Sweeney and Darryl Tweed.
Jack Oliver in action at the Kells Road Races in Co Meath on his TJR Kawasaki.
He had previously concentrated solely on the support races after making his debut on the roads at Armoy last July.
Earlier in the day, Jack finished as the runner-up in the Junior Support race and was 10th in the Senior Support event.
Armoy race chief Kennedy spoke with Jack – a member of the Armoy Club – minutes before he set off in the ill-fated race and said he was left saddened by the tragedy, which cast a dark cloud over the first Irish national road race in the Republic of Ireland in almost three years.
“I’m just sitting looking at a picture that Michael Gahan took of myself with Jack and Darryl Tweed about ten minutes before the accident happened,” said Kennedy, when contacted by the News Letter on Sunday evening.
“They were a very close family and they were all into their racing – Jack just lived for it and you can say whatever you like, but he actually lived just to race motorbikes.
“It was Jack’s first time at Kells and his first ever 600 race as well, so it’s just so unfortunate that this has happened.
“I’m really saddened about this because I had a lot of time for Jack and his dad. I was with him on three different occasions today speaking to him, inside the space of about four hours,” added Kennedy.
“They were all heavily involved in racing with Jack and this will be such a big change of circumstances for them, and it will take a long time to come to terms with this no doubt.
“I’m sure Jack would have had a smile on his face as wide as the Barmouth and was enjoying himself right to the very last second, and that’s what he lived for – to race his bikes.”
The fatal accident is the second this year involving Northern Ireland riders after Co Down’s Davy Morgan died after a crash at the Isle of Man TT two weeks ago.
The 52-year-old came off on the third and final lap of the opening Supersport race.
Davy’s funeral will be held tomorrow at Saintfield Presbyterian Church (see separate article).
Kennedy said: “We’ve lost two MCUI Ulster Centre licence holders already this year and it’s very sad. Davy Morgan, one of the most safe and respected riders, was passing on so much knowledge in his own craft to young riders like Jack Oliver, and it just shows you what motorbike racing can be like.
“Davy was in the twilight of his career while young Jack was just starting out, so it’s a very sad day for road racing in general I think.
“But more than that, it’s a really sad day for the Oliver family, his girlfriend and friends,” added Kennedy, whose own brother Frank died as a result of injuries he sustained after crashing at the North West 200 in 1979. “It comes after a sad TT when we had highs and lows, because we had Michael Dunlop getting his 20th win in the first Supersport race and then about 10 minutes after that I got a phone call with the tragic news about Davy Morgan.
“That just knocks the stuffing out of you and then we had the incidents with the Sidecar racers, which was so sad too.”
The Armoy Road Races returned last summer after the event was cancelled in 2020 due to the impact of coronavirus restrictions, and Oliver made an immediate impact on his debut between the hedges.
He finished a close second in the Senior Support race at the Co Antrim course, crossing the line 1.1s behind Eoin O’Siochru.
He then went on to claim his maiden victory in the Senior Support race at the Cookstown 100 in April, leaving Kennedy in no doubt that he had the potential to achieve big things in the future.
“He was the most promising young rider in the last few years and I would safely say that Jack Oliver would have went far,” said Kennedy.
“Sadly he won’t get that chance now. He was the nicest young fellow you could have met in the paddock and it’s just so terribly