A THUG who attacked an official at a race meeting near York, and bit off part of a man’s ear during a road rage row, has been jailed for four-and-a-half years.

Talented harness racer John Harrop repeatedly whipped John Delaney with his riding crop at York Harness Raceway, near Green Hammerton, after Harrop had been asked to leave the track while horses got under starter’s orders.

Bystanders tried to intervene as Harrop, 21, carried out the assault on April 18.

Harrop, who is from a family of travellers, said he had been abused during a row, but a judge ruled there had been no racist provocation.

At the time, Harrop was on bail for an earlier road rage incident, which had happened in Darlington, Teesside Crown Court was told. Chris Baker, prosecuting, said Terence Stevens and his partner were in his work van with their two toddlers in Yarm Road in August last year.

Mr Stevens pulled over when a stone was thrown at his vehicle from a BMW convertible, and approached the car, in which Harrop was the front-seat passenger. The two men started fighting, and Mr Stevens was said to have been getting the better of his Harrop until the traveller bit part of his ear off.

Harrop then kicked Mr Stevens a number of times in the head and punched his partner in the ribs when she tried to intervene. Harrop, who was living on the Green Lane caravan site, in Bishop Auckland, at the time of the attack, admitted wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm and assault, and assault causing actual bodily harm.

Graeme Gaston, in mitigation, said Harrop had been experimenting with steroids and suffered a relationship breakdown in the months before the incidents. Mr Gaston told the court that time in custody on remand had made Harrop examine his behaviour.

York Harness Raceway describes itself as England’s premier circuit for harness racing, which is similar to chariot racing.