We are almost at mid point of the season and so far 2017 has pretty much gone to plan with me having a 55 point lead in the Championship ahead of my team mate Tom Sykes, and a pretty seamless record of podiums and race wins. I had an unfortunate incident in race 1 at Donington where my rear tyre pretty much exploded while I was in a good position to win but thankfully I walked away from the crash and won race 2 in what was some kind of justice after what happened the day before.
Beating Tom at Donington has been on my “to do” list for some time now so was great to finally achieve this, especially after all his smack talk during the weekend. I started in tenth and had one of the best first laps of my life fighting through to first place on lap one. People think that a win is a win, but each time you win when you are at the top has a different special meaning. My team and family knew how much this win meant to me and to prove I could win from tenth place on the grid, and after a nasty crash on Saturday made the Champagne taste even sweeter.
People who saw my Donington crash expressed a lot of concern about my wellbeing afterwards as the crash took place at the Craner Curves at Donington Park, a very famously fast part of the track. A lot riders have crashed there in the past, but this was my first! These days we are so lucky with the racing kit we are provided with as with my Alpinestars Tech Air airbag and Arai helmet meant that I barely had a scratch or bruise on me after sliding off at 130mph.
The air bag in my leathers activates before impact and blows up around the shoulder and chest area and really reduces the impact hugely. I banged my head on the tarmac quite hard when thrown off and aside from some scratched paintwork, my Arai helmet was also in good knick. Very lucky. I often also get asked what happens to my kit when I crash? My leathers and helmet always go back to the supplier as they need to be tested and checked over for research purposes and also the helmets are never used again once they’ve been crashed in once and had an impact. If my leathers aren’t too bad, they’ll get patched up and I’ll get a new set made out of them. I usually ditch my gloves (I threw these into the crowd at the paddock show after Donington), and my boots usually go to a charity event or to some lucky fan who’s in the right place a the right time ☺
The first half of the season in SBK is always really hectic as races come around almost every two weeks or so and we’ve also had two tests in-between races in Portimao and Misano, so my time at home on the Isle of Man has been sparse. When I am home I really enjoy it but it’s never long enough but it’s also good to keep up the race momentum and enjoy the form I’m in. Fortunately this year the calendar allowed me to be home for the entire TT which I always enjoy, as it brings such a great atmosphere to the IOM with thousands of people visiting from all over the world. Our, normally sleepy, little Castletown is a buzz with people, events and bikes which makes a nice change. We also have a lot of people we know in the motorcycle world drop in to say hello and visitors staying to see the spectacle. One question I get asked a lot is “would I ever do the TT”, and my answer is always the same.
I have no ambition to do street racing, as to me it’s a really different sport. We both ride motorcycles but with short circuit racing we have to get the machine as close to the absolute limit as possible. We are striving to be faster by thousands of a second, where as on the roads the limit is a little different and there are there are many other obstacles to consider. It’s not about racing your competitor bar-to-bar; it’s about racing the clock against the elements, and the endurance of the machine itself. I totally admire and respect the TT guys and am in awe of them every year I see them zoom past but it’s definitely not for me. My father raced at the TT and won here when I was a kid, so part of me has it in my blood, but I feel lucky that I have chosen the path of short circuit racing instead.
On the home front, my two little men are doing great. Keeping me busy when I’m not training or away at races. Both boys are now flat out riding their little bikes also and already showing a lot of skills. I’m super proud of the little boys they are becoming and that they’re willing to give anything a go. I’ll never be a pushy dad demanding that they ride or race bikes, but I am happy that they’re showing interest at such an early age.
Until the next time, ciao!