A MOTORCYCLE sidecar racing ace is lucky to be alive today after a horrific crash that killed his rider.
Fans watching a race in Germany were horrified when they saw a bike ridden by top competitor Steve Norbury swerve and plough into a barrier, throwing sidecar passenger Rick Long, from Market Deeping, high into the air.
Rick, an Isle of Man veteran sidecar ace and one of the leading lights in the sport, is today in a German hospital with severe leg injuries and is said to be in a stable condition following an operation. It is understood that 45-year-old Rick suffered serious injuries to both legs and friends are very concerned that he will face a battle to recover.
Steve, who died later in hospital, and Rick, who has built an enviable reputation in 17 years of racing, were taking part in the German F1 Sidecar Championship (IDM) at the Hockenheim circuit on Sunday when disaster struck.
It is believed the rear wheel of their Lockside Racing Team combination locked and the sidecar broke sideways, throwing Rick two metres into the air before the bike slammed into a tyre barrier.
The crash comes just weeks after another local motorcycle hero, Craig Jones, from Warmington, near Oundle, was killed in am horrific accident at Brands Hatch, in Kent, while competing in the World Supersport Championships in August.
Motor racing sites across the internet have been inundated with messages from friends and sports fans wishing Rick well and expressing condolences for Steve.
Speaking today, Rick's ex-wife, Lisa, said: "Rick is not in a position to speak about the accident at the moment. He has severe leg injuries and the next week is going to be quite telling for him."
Motorcycle fan Gerd Prilipp, who was at Hockenheim and witnessed the crash, said: "We were sitting in the grandstand above the Sachs Curve. Steve came into the motodrome very quickly, and at the braking point the rear wheel locked.
"At the same moment, the sidecar broke sideways and Steve had no chance of catching it. He had nowhere to go and went across the gravel and into the tyre wall.
"One of the two men was thrown clear of the sidecar as it went two metres in the air. The stewards were on the scene immediately and straight away called for medical staff.
"Another rider stopped and tried to help, but there was nothing he could do, so he returned to the paddock.
"After about 15 minutes, the doctors called for the riders to be put in the ambulances to be taken to a helicopter. I think the passenger lifted his head to see how his friend was, which got a round of applause from the audience.
"After the re-started race was finished, none of the riders opened the champagne on the podium."
Rick etched his name into Isle of Man TT folklore after a stunning double in the famous event.
Rick became the most successful passenger in the event's 100-year history when partnering Dave Molyneux to two wins over the famous circuit.
Sidecar racing is one of the most visually spectacular forms of bike racing and demands co-ordination at high-speed between rider and passenger.