Beautiful Danger

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A new exhibition of road racing photographs, entitled ‘Beautiful Danger’ opened at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, Cultra on Friday 22nd November. The exhibition will run throughout 2003.

Stephen Davison, a staff photographer with Pacemaker Press International, and a regular contributor to Road Racing Ireland, took the 37 images on display over the past 10 years. Many of the pictures are new and have not been seen before, although there are also some images from his best-selling book on Joey Dunlop.

A road racing fan since his first race in 1974, Davison explains how the exhibition developed. ‘The exhibition is called “Beautiful Danger” and I think that sums up my feelings about road racing,’ he says.

The beauty of the sport is what first drew me to it- the sheer spectacle that pure road racing is. There is the road itself, the ribbons of tarmac that cut their way through beautiful countryside, winding between the hedges of green country lanes, along coastal roads and out over mountain tops.

My earliest racing memory is the sight of racing bikes breaking out from under the tunnel of trees on the Cochranstown straight, skimming past our noses at over100mph into Quarterlands. The noise, the smell! I was too scared to even think about who was leading never mind mark it in the programme!

And there is the charisma of the racers themselves, mostly amateurs who race for the love of it. To stand in the pits and watch the Dunlop brothers strip an engine or change the gearing in between races was a privilege to wonder at. Unlike many modern sportsmen who hide away from their fans, the road racers are approachable men who are happy to share a drink and a chat in the beer tent after the race.

There is no denying the danger of road racing either. The litany of men who have paid the ultimate price for their sport is long and well-known. We should also be honest about this. The danger is part of the thrill for both competitor and spectator alike. The racers enjoy taking it to the edge and as fans we marvel at how these men can do things we couldn’t even imagine trying. Fear is part of the equation for both

These are the things that I have tried to capture in these photographs. They are not a complete history, they are one man’s view, my view. Most of the main characters of the past 10 years are here, doing what they do best.

Man and machine at incredible speeds on the highways and byways that we use every other day of the year. Our roads, our heroes, our sport.’