FRIENDS, family, colleagues and competitors came together yesterday to celebrate the life of a Hampshire powerboat racer tragically killed after a freak racing accident.

Hundreds of mourners packed into a Southampton church for an emotionally-charged send-off for Mike Lovell.

Those gathered inside St Mary’s Church in Sholing heard a series of tearful tributes to the popular 27- year-old from his parents, girlfriend, other family members, friends, colleagues and racers.

Before the service, Mike’s coffin was escorted to the St Monica’s Road church from Brookspeed in Bevois Valley, where he worked for five years as a talented and wellrespected mechanic, by a huge funeral cortege featuring modified cars driven by his friends from the local “cruising” community.

A pair of Ferraris had flanked the hearse as it waited outside the Empress Road garage while friends and family gathered.

Among those at the funeral were Hampshire racing driver Dean Stoneman, who has taken up powerboat racing as he completes his recovery from testicular cancer, and Shelly Jory-Leigh, the Southampton-based former racer who was commentating on the event when Mike’s accident happened.

His navigator, Dan Whapples, who was also seriously injured when the pair were thrown from their boat in the accident, during the final race of the P1 SuperStock UK series in Weymouth on September 16, was also well enough to attend.

With Mike’s family having asked for mourners not to wear black, many of those at the funeral were dressed in their racing uniforms in honour of their fallen rival and friend.

The 75-minute service, which was followed by a wake at The Plough pub in Bursledon, featured music from Kasabian, Michael Jackson, Leon Jackson and Green Day’s Time of Your Life, as well as the hymn All Things Bright and Beautiful.

His devastated mum Tracy, 48, dressed in red because it was Mike’s favourite colour on her, said he was “her rock” who had been “the best son anyone could have wanted”.

She said: “Everything he did he put 110 per cent into to make sure everything was correct.

“He was doing everything he wanted and loved. It was all taken away from him, and I will never understand why.”

Friends, who said he had “lived each day to the full” and packed more into his 27 years than many manage in a lifetime, told several stories of fixing cars long into the night with Mike, racing and joking with him.