Motorbike champion killed in Tallinn

  • 2000-07-06
  • By Aleksei Gynter
TALLINN - William Joseph Dunlop, 48, a five-time Formula 1 motorcycle
racing champion from Ireland, died at age 48 in a road accident
during the 39th Kalev race in Tallinn on July 2.

Dunlop's 125 cc bike slid off the track in heavy rain at 140-150 km
per hour, hit two trees and slightly injured two spectators. The
champion died instantly, and organizers canceled the event although
two races were yet to come.

The Estonian daily Eesti Paevaleht reported some witnesses saw a
child crossing the track in front of Dunlop, but the rest of them
could not confirm it. Erki Berends, PR manager of the event, said
Dunlop's health or his bike's condition could possibly have
contributed to the accident.

"The track itself was partly repaired before the race and was up to
international standards," Berends said. As Baltic News Service
reported, a participant, John Caffrey of Britain, said Tallinn's
Pirita track is the best among similar circuits in Central Europe.
"The track is quite difficult, because there are many raises and
descents. It's one of the most interesting tracks in Europe,"said

"On the one hand, spectators like when something happens during the
race. On the other hand, they don't like when something drastic
happens," Berends commented on the affect of the accident.

Dunlop had participated in races in Estonia since 1998. According to
Roadracers, a Web site dedicated to motorcycle racers, he "enjoyed
going to the races in Estonia in the last couple of years." Dunlop
leaves five children. Dunlop was also well-known for his charity work
in Romania and the Balkans and was awarded a Member of the Order of
the British Empire award for his motorcycling achievements and
another award for his charity work, BBC reported. Dunlop was the
Formula 1 motorcycle World Champion from 1982 to 1986.

The 39th Kalev race is an international event, and has been held
since 1959. "It was the second fatal accident at this circuit. The
first one happened in 1961," said Berends.

BNS reported that Dunlop had already won the 600cc race on July 1 and
the 750cc Superbike race earlier on July 2. The fatal accident
occurred at about 2 p.m. local time. The Roadracers Web site says
Dunlop's greatest ambition was "to race for as long as possible."