Northern Ireland

Jamie Hodson's girlfriend says racing was his passion

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Media caption'You just don't want to believe it'

The girlfriend of a road racer killed at the Ulster Grand Prix in 2017 has said racing was his greatest passion.

Jamie Hodson, from Wigan, was killed after being involved in a collision with his brother, who is also a racer, and other competitors.

Jamie, who won the 2016 Super Twins Manx Grand Prix, suffered a fractured skull alongside a cardiac arrest and died shortly afterwards in hospital.

"The sport was everything to him, it was in his blood," said Rachael Ellen McKay.

Rachael, from Manchester, said she first met Jamie after a work colleague suggested she should look him up on social media.

"I thought he's a bit cute and I added him on Facebook, and we got talking and that was it really," she said.

Jamie is from a family of road racers, his brother Rob competes and so does his father James.

Image copyright RACHAEL MCKAY
Image caption Jamie came from a family of racers including his brother Rob and father James

"Anytime you're in the awning with them, countless people come through and say hi and they are really well liked as a family," she said.

It was a new world for Rachael though who had never been to a road race before.

"It always seemed really daunting to me, I can't imagine what it must feel like, it must feel like you're flying," she said.

Jamie had success in his career and Rachael admits that she cried for him when he won the Manx Grand Prix in 2016.

"This is something he dreamed about and he actually achieved it and that's not something many people get to do in their lifetime," she said.

Jamie had been racing for a long time and while Rachael says she always had concerns in the back of her mind, she had full confidence in him when he raced.

"He was just going out to have a good time and if he got good results that was great, but he just wanted to have a good time because that is what he enjoyed doing."

Jamie was in good sprits in the run up to the Ulster Grand Prix and was really looking forward to taking on a new challenge as it would be his first time on the circuit.

Before the race, the couple had gone to Cyprus with Rachael's family to celebrate her birthday.

Image copyright Rachael McKay
Image caption The couple went on holiday before Jamie competed in the race

"We went on a boat cruise and we had a meal and a dance and there were fireworks," she said.

"And that's one of my main memories that I treasure as we had a slow dance on the boat and it was really nice."

When Jamie arrived at the race things had been going pretty well and he told Rachael the practices had been good and he'd been getting decent results.

"The last message I got was him saying 'I'm going off to practise now so I'll speak to you later' and that's the last time I heard from him," she said.

She didn't hear anything from Jamie for a few hours but that wasn't unusual as she knew a lot would be going on.

But it was when she got a call from Jamie's mum Carole that she knew something was wrong.

Image copyright David Maginnis/Pacemaker
Image caption Jamie Hodson swerved while trying to avoid another bike

"You go into shock and it's a denial thing," she said.

"You know you can't do anything to undo it and I think that's the hardest thing.

"It was hard knowing I wouldn't get to see or speak to him again."

Jamie swerved while trying to avoid the bike of his brother Rob, who had fallen just up the track. It was the brother's first race in the Ulster Grand Prix.

Four riders behind tried to avoid Rob's bike, but Jamie was thrown into a telegraph pole.

"I found out shortly afterwards that Rob was also involved and we're just lucky that Rob didn't get as injured as Jamie did."

Image copyright Rachael McKay

2017 was a bad year for the Ulster Grand Prix - Gavin Lupton died of his injuries 12 days after the event and Steven Lynd was left with life-changing injuries.

The following year, French rider Fabric Miguet was also killed at the section of the course where Jamie came off his bike.

"There's nothing to say more safety measures would have prevented what happened to Jamie but you do always wonder if the organisers take stock of any accidents that do happen and see if they can alter anything on the course," she said.

Image copyright Rachael McKay

Rachael was not able to be at Jamie's inquest and said she still has some questions about his death.

She has not been contacted by race officials or by the coroner but he hopes that will happen.

However, she said the wider racing community had reached out to her and that had been a real support.

The organisers of the Ulster Grand Prix said "every effort is made by organisers to make the event as safe as possible and risk assessments are carried out each year and improvements are put in place to enhance track safety."

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