Archive for the ‘Motorsport’ Category

Paul Owen: Isle of Man TT Hero

Being a massive fan of motorcycle road racing and Twitterer, I set up a search column under the hashtag #iomtt for the duration of the Isle of Man TT 2010 so I could pick up news and comments as they came through. I live in Hong Kong where there is no TV coverage, so this and an RSS feed from the official website have been my main sources of information. This morning I read on the RSS feed that Paul Dobbs, a 39 year old New Zealander with a wife and two children, had been killed during the second Monster Energy Supersport Race. With a heavy heart I tweeted a message of sympathy to the rider’s family, clicked a link from a related tweet and found a forum with a new thread headed “Paul Owen” that started with this two-line post:

“[Paul Owen] Was stopped at the scene of Dobsy’s accident today, took a flag and told the marshal waving it to go and attend to the rider and he would wave the flag.  A true hero and sportsman who should be applauded for his actions in a very difficult situation … Hold your head up with pride Mr Owen, you are a legend.”

There followed 25 posts running in the same vein. Anyone that has been close to motorsport will know how deeply the loss of a racer is felt. I went to the Isle of Man TT just once in 2003, landing at almost the same moment that the great David Jeffries died in a practice crash which cast a huge pall over the island and motorcycle racing as a whole.

Note: If you have never been to the Isle of Man TT you have missed the world’s greatest sporting event. My first taste was an early morning practice, which i watched from the crossroads at the top of Bray Hill. The sight of riders fighting to keep the front wheel on the ground as they flashed past at 180mph just a few metres away made every hair on my body stand on end. Ever since then I have been trying to figure out whether I am most in awe of their skill or their bravery.

It is not just Paul Owen’s action in yesterday’s tragedy that embodies the spirit of road racing. Everything about the man exudes what the sport is all about. He’s a talented, highly respected rider with a superb record who does everything in his power to raise money to keep his show on the road. He’s media savvy too: his website has videos, he has a frequently updated blog site and a Facebook fan page, all of which he uses to engage enthusiasts and raise money.

Paul deserves recognition for his bravery and there is a precedent, which is why I am writing this post. The incident took me back to the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort 1973, when I was a Formula One fan and junior grass track racer. A prodigiously talented young driver, Roger Williamson, crashed when a tyre deflated and his car caught fire. David Purley, driving a similar car, had been just ahead and saw Williamson crash in his mirrors. He stopped, ran back and tried again and again to pull the stricken driver from his car, suffering burns and ruptured blood vessels in his arms before he was eventually forced to give up. The whole ghastly scene was caught on TV and shown repeatedly, of course.  Purley was a family acquaintance and once told my father – a few years later – that he still had frequent nightmares and was especially haunted by Williamson’s pleas for help.

David Purley’s heroism was recognised with the George Medal, highest civilian award for bravery. Of course this is not such a spectacular incident, but Paul Owen’s selfless action could well have saved the lives of following riders, so recognition by the sporting body, the Isle of Man, or even a CBE would be no less than he deserves. And it also happens that Owen has the wit and ability to be great ambassador for road racing too, so the sport could ultimately even benefit from this tragedy.

I recommend that you take a few minutes to click the links and be entertained and informed by Owen’s website content, blog and Facebook fan page. They also give you the opportunity to make your own comments that would back the case for a formal recognition of this true TT hero.

References
Isle of Man TT Forum: http://www.iomtt.com/Home/Forum/ShowPost.aspx?PageIndex=1&PostID=210764
Paul Owen Website: http://www.paulowen98.com
Paul Owen Blog: http://paulowen98.blogware.com/blog
Facebook Fan Page: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=54605344587#!/group.php?gid=54605344587
http://formula-1.suite101.com/article.cfm/roger_williamson_remembered