OVERINFLATED tyres might have contributed to an accident that claimed the life of a Boston Manx Grand Prix competitor.
Popular rider Neil Kent died on August 24 after crashing his Yamaha TZ250 while practising for the race in the Isle of Man and an inquest into his death has now been held in Douglas.
Mr Kent first competed at the Manx Grand Prix in 1986 and last year won the Lightweight race, as well as receiving the Spirit of the Manx trophy to recognise good sportsmanship in the event.
Stephen Taylor was marshalling at Greeba Bridge, where Mr Kent crashed soon after the start of practices at about 6.30pm.
Mr Taylor’s statement said Mr Kent’s speed and line through a left-hand bend looked normal, but added: “As he accelerated out of the corner his front wheel slid away.”
He said he ran towards the scene and used a straw bale that had been dislodged from a gate-post to shield Mr Kent from oncoming riders.
The 49-year-old was lying face down and motionless in the road before being attended to by St John Ambulance paramedics at the scene and being taken by helicopter to Noble’s Hospital.
Another marshal, Roger Willis, said he also saw Mr Kent’s blue and white Yamaha, number 16, approaching, then heard a scraping sound after it passed.
“I saw the bike hit the small hedge on the outside of the bend,” he said.
Dr David Hedley, who cared for Mr Kent at hospital, said the rider had suffered massive head injuries and a fractured humerus. He pronounced him dead just before 8pm the same day.
A post-mortem by Dr Christopher Clague confirmed the cause of death as severe head injuries.
Vehicle examiner Anthony Bode said he had found no mechanical defects on Mr Kent’s bike other than minor accident damage.
However, he said the front and rear tyre pressures were 44 and 42 psi respectively – in each case 13 psi above the recommended pressure.
“This may have been a contributory factor in the collision,” he said.
Mr Kent’s sponsor, and tyre supplier Dennis Trollope said tyre pressures could vary according to rider preference, depending on their weight and build.
He said Mr Kent’s death had been a big shock as he was a good rider and meticulous in the preparation of his bikes. He also told the court that when he unloaded Mr Kent’s gear some time after the accident he had found a second set of wheels with tyres overinflated by 10 psi.
Tests suggested Mr Kent’s tyre pressure gauge was accurate.
Recording a misadventure verdict, coroner Jayne Hughes said she considered it ‘more likely than not’ that the over-inflated tyres contributed to the accident.
“This tragic accident highlights the dangers of motorcycle racing in the Isle of Man,” she said.
Neil Kent started motorcycle racing in his late teens, competing at Cadwell Park, before first riding in the Manx Grand Prix in 1986.
He ran George W. Kent Electrical in George Street and spent at least five nights a week in the gym just to compete on the Isle of Man.
His sister, Karen Elliott, said: “He will be sorely missed by his mother, sister, stepson, nephews and nieces.”