THE family of a young father who died in a freak motorbike racing accident have spoken of their utter despair.
Darren Mitchell, 31, of Primrose Hill, Newsome, died in a pile-up on the opening lap of the National Superstock Championship at Brands Hatch last Sunday.
Bad weather conditions have been blamed for the accident but a full inquiry is underway.
In the same race last year Darren came first.
His wife Jane, 29, was at the race but did not see the accident happen.
Darren and Jane met in 1993 while studying Business Studies at the University of Huddersfield.
The couple married at romantic Gretna Green, in Scotland, in May 2003 and have an eight-month-old son Max.
She said: "We started going out in 1994 and we have been inseparable ever since. Even as students we never really used to go out much we would just stay in and watch television.
"I went to all his races - you expect injuries like bruises and broken bones but you never really think anything like this will happen.
"Thank God I did not see the accident but I was told about it soon enough."
Darren was treated at the circuit before being airlifted by Kent Air Ambulance to Maidstone Hospital where he later died from his injuries.
Ever since the age of six Darren had been obsessed by motorbikes. His parents Kath and Robert, of South Lane Gardens, Elland, worked around the clock to make sure Darren could keep on riding.
And his sisters Josephine, 38, and Stephanie, 36, would cheer him on from the track side.
Kath said: "We have always been a very close family. At weekends we would all go out on bikes racing.
"I am so proud of him for what he was like as a child and the great man he grew up to be.
"Everything looks the same but yet everything has changed now he is gone. He was the type of man who always looked for the good and he loved his wife, son and family so much.
"Jane and Darren were so close - it was a fairy tale.
"They had so many plans for the future, so many great plans. Darren wanted to find a plot of land and build his own house and he would have done it as well I am sure of that.
"I think of him as an angel."
Growing up in Elland, Darren was a star to his school pals. At Elland C of E Junior and Infant School, in Westgate, and through his teenage years at The Brooksbank School, in Victoria Road, he was often congratulated in assembly after winning another trophy.
His school friend Simon Wright, 31, now partner to Darren's sister Stephanie, of Woodside Terrace, Greetland, said he was a quiet but friendly lad at school.
"Everybody knew Darren because of his biking," he said. "He was a quiet lad but he got on with absolutely everybody.
"The head teacher would always be mentioning him."
Darren's biggest achievement came in 1991 when he won the National Super Teen Championship. The victory was all the more incredible because Darren did not have the kind of money or sponsorship most of the other riders enjoyed.
Incredibly he rode the last two races at Brands Hatch and Donnington with a broken collar bone after a previous crash.
His dad Robert said: "I actually had to lift him on to his bike because he had a broken collar bone. But that was typical Darren.
"Some people did not believe he really had a broken bone so I went and got the x-ray and we had a picture in a motorbike magazine of Darren holding them up.
"He went out on that track in pain and won the race and the championship.
"Winning that championship and all the successes he had made him a superman to me and other people in the sport because we did not have loads of money to throw at getting new bikes and parts. We just worked hard and got through and still Darren kept winning.
"He was so determined he never gave up at anything.
"The reason he went to university was to better himself. He always worked hard. When he was studying he worked all the time to fund it."
After university Darren set up his own engineering business, Woodside Fabrication, based in Hart Street, Newsome.
Jane said: "Since he set up the business and Max came along Darren had been riding without the edge he had before because he knew he just could not fall off.
"We had talked about the dangers and what he wanted if something awful did happen but it was more in a jokey way. We never really thought it would.
"But he told me exactly what he wanted at his funeral so next Wednesday will be a special day."
The funeral takes place at Park Wood Crematorium in Elland at 3pm on June 30.