It just takes one phone call and everything changes. So it was last night, when the news reached me that Martin Finnegan had been killed. Martin who? If you're into motorcycle road racing, the name needs no introduction. Martin was one of the most talented riders on the road racing scene as well as one of the most genuine people. He died yesterday after crashing while racing at Tandragee in Northern Ireland. Martin will be remembered for his spectacular riding style which endeared him to every spectator at the Isle of Man TT where he was due to compete in less than a month's time.
Martin was born in Dublin and looked destined to be a TT winner sometime soon. He made his first appearance on the Isle of Man's famous Mountain Course in 2000, winning the newcomers' race at the Manx Grand Prix. The step up to the TT was immediate and in 2005 I commentated on his first podium succeess, third place in the Superbike TT. He was consistently in the top six or seven and would have made it to the top spot if fate had not decreed otherwise.
Road racing is a glorious antidote to the safety-first, hype-over-substance nature of much of today's sport. The risks are real and unforgiving. The notion of "putting one's body on the line" is no tabloid exaggeration. The rewards are a fraction of those on offer to an under-performing squad member of many an English football club. But men and women still live for the thrill of riding high-powered two-wheeled rockets through country roads with incredible skill and courage.
Sometimes, tragically, they die for it.
Martin Finnegan, R.I.P.