TRIBUTES have been paid to Neil Kent, who died at the Manx GP last week.
The 49-year-old was killed near Greeba Bridge while competing in the junior section qualifying rounds on the Isle on Man on Wednesday evening. He was riding his 250cc Yamaha.
Neil was the defending champion in the lightweight section, having won the title last year.
He received the Austin Munks Shield in January, a trophy awarded to the Lincolnshire rider who finishes highest in the GP, as well as being named last year’s Sprit of the Manx winner.
A veteran of the Manx GP, he began competing in 1986 and even returned to his bike after a serious accident where he broke his back during the event.
“He died doing the thing he loved best,” said Neil’s best mate Steve Dawson.
“Neil wouldn’t want anybody to feel sad for him.
“He died living life to the full and that was what he was all about.”
Neil ran the George W. Kent Electrical store in George Street, and spent at least five nights a week training in the gym just to compete on the Isle of Man each year. Apart from one annual qualifying ride, he never rode anywhere else.
“Neil was an enigma,” Mr Dawson added. “People saw him as the likeable bloke with the little hoover bag shop – but on the Isle of Man he was a legend.
“He was like a brother to me.
“He was the most generous person I ever met.
“He was first to get the cheque book out to support anyone else in sport.”
Neil – who travelled the world supporting his favourite boxers Ricky Hatton and Carl Froch – leaves a stepson, Callum Hallam.
Neil was extremely proud when Callum, 12, passed his second-year entry exams, earning a place at Boston Grammar School.
But his death means he will never get to see the youngster in the gold and black tie.
“That meant everything to Neil,” Mr Dawson added.
Bill Bennett, chairman of the Manx Motorcycle Club, said: “Neil was a hugely popular competitor and his victory last year was well-deserved.”