William Dunlop’s cousin Paul Robinson says he is heartbroken over the devastating effect of the Ballymoney man’s fatal accident on his young family.
William leaves behind his pregnant partner, Janine and two-year-old daughter Ella.
A tearful Robinson, himself a racer who was present at the Skerries meeting near Dublin on Saturday where Dunlop was killed in a crash during practice, said the 32-year-old ‘doted on his wee daughter’.
He told the News Letter: "The hardest part for me is thinking about his wee girl, who will be growing up without her daddy, and there’s another one on the way.
“He doted on Ella and he loved her to bits – his whole world revolved around her and racing was almost taking a bit of a back seat.
“I still can’t believe it and you start to think, ‘maybe it hasn’t happened – we’re getting it wrong’. It doesn’t seem real right now.”
Robinson’s father Mervyn, a member of the fabled Armoy Armada, was killed at the North West 200 in 1980.
He knows only too well the heartache caused by a racing tragedy, but the Ballymoney man is finding William’s sad passing especially hard to take.
“William was as genuine as they come. There were no airs or graces with William and what you saw is what you got,” he said.
“He kept himself to himself most of the time but he was a very determined wee fella, it didn’t matter if was motorbikes or whatever.
“We played a lot of football together and he was very determined when he set his mind to something.
“He will be badly missed, not just by the racing family but by many people. Our football team, Dunaghy, abandoned their match on Saturday when the news came through. That is how people thought of William – he was just held in the highest regard.”
Reliving the gut-wrenching moment when he realised William had been killed on Saturday, Robinson said his cousin, Gary – Joey Dunlop’s son – rang him to break the awful news.
“We were working away on my bike and then the red flags came out. We knew something had gone wrong when there was no announcement over the Tannoy system,” he said.
“The minute we heard practice had been cancelled and the road was being closed, we knew there had been a fatality.
“About five minutes later my phone rang and it was Gary, so I just knew straight away it was either William or Derek (McGee, who rides a Moto3 Honda for the Joey’s Bar team). Gary broke the news to us and he is absolutely devastated. He helped William a lot and was at all the races with him.
“I can’t find words for it. I’ve a wee boy of four years and you just think is it worth it any more,” added Robinson.
“I can’t justify it at the minute, I just can’t. The usual people will be on saying it should be banned but that is not the answer.
“If people aren’t allowed to race bikes on closed roads they will still ride fast on the public roads, and that would put even more people at risk.”
William was one of the smoothest riders to watch in action, full of natural ability with an effortless riding style, and Robinson said it had been a pleasure to share the roads with him.
“William was a brilliant rider to watch, very stylish – a natural. He was brilliant to ride with as well, he was so clean and tidy and you knew where he was going to be when you were racing with him.
“He always gave everybody plenty of room and there were never any problems racing with William.
“He was the fastest rider I have ever seen in terms of corner speed – he was so good in the corners and that was how he rode.
“There are no words to describe how bad this is. We just packed up and went home on Saturday. We were supposed to be going to the Isle of Man this evening for the Southern 100, but instead we are in chaos.”