I arrived Sunday 7th January 1985, but not without a hint of drama, no this time I wasn’t late! In fact a little early, but a few problems meant a hairy ambulance dash from the little maternity unit in Buxton, over the snowy tops to Stockport. In the end thankfully all was well and there I was. With my parents lifestyle, there was little time for Baby talk and within weeks I was off on my first foreign trip, racing at Vallelunga, Italy for the European 500cc race. During my first year of life I had visited no less than 12 countries, some many times. The not so trusty caravan and an old Fiat van as my temporary home for weeks at a time.
My Dad it seems, wasn’t a bad road racer, from his first race at Darley Moor (when bikes used to run steam engines!) riding to the meeting on his road going Laverda with his tools strapped to his tank , the racing bug began and soon sacked from his job for making parts for his bike, he decided to give racing a go. And go he did, British Championships, European Championships, GP’s, the TT and World F1, always with me in tow.
Surrounded by bikes and being raised in paddocks and on paddock bikes, I had my first bike by the age of two and competed for the first time in a schoolboy motocross event aged six, and no I didn’t win but I don’t think I was completely last but buzzing around on my little PW50 seemed to become second nature.
Weekends became weekends racing and now with my little brother also in tow we trekked from muddy paddock to muddy paddock, Mum always lap scoring and Dad working on his next secret go faster part!
In the endless pursuit for sucess, Not much more to say really!
A good day? Well that would involve two wheels with an engine in the middle & a good brew!
If anyone is actually still reading . . . it’s starting to really kick off!
On to 2005 and I parted company with both Zupin and Husqvarna. Believing I had a great ride lined up for the coming season, I spent an easy winter just chillin, only to have all my plans change at the last minute.
Thankfully Husaberg had yet to finalise their World Championship plans and without hesitation I signed to join their World Championship effort with the newly formed Endu-Raid squad and was re-united in the UK with the daddy himself, Mr Dave Clarke.
2005 was a great season and even a broken wrist sustained during one of the British Championship rounds couldn’t stop me from taking back my British Championship crown. The World Championships went really well too and only 3 DNF’s in quick succession managed to drop me from 4th to an eventual 6th overall.
Outside of the serious racing I also competed in the MOTO 1 event and after beginning the event with the ambition just to have a bit of a laugh, I ended up winning the whole thing!
After such a great season I was picked up by the Factory Aprilia squad, with whom I spent 3 great years 2006 was a great year for my racing and after 4 races in the World Championship I had taken my factory Aprilia to 4 straight GP podiums. Unfortunately a damaged knee ligament at round 5 put an end to my title hopes but I still ended the season in 4th and fighting for GP wins. 2006 was also the year that I finally graduated from University and got my degree.
2007 was even better and I took 2 British titles as well as finishing 3rd in the FIM World Championship after standing on top of the podium for 2 GP’s and it looked like I was all set for a fantastic 2008 season.
In racing though it seems like nothing goes to plan and after a difficult first round I managed to claw it back at round 2, getting things back on track by moving back into a title chasing position. A week later though and I had broken both of my wrists which put a quick end to my World title chances. After 4 weeks from the accident I was back in action in the British championship and managed to still take the title. The Worlds however, were a different story and it took a long time to get back onto full race pace. Race after race things were improving and I won the last race of the season in Greece.
2008 was also my first outing into road racing. Aprilia had supplied me with a Tuono 1000 which I rode in the Thundersport GB series winning every race I entered. I then entered the Junior Superstock race at BSB level on board the SMT Hunts 600 taking 3rd in qualifying and 5th in the race having never ridden the bike before. It was a real eye opener as I didn’t really know what to expect from myself and I hope to get the chance to do more road racing in the near future.
I’m getting a little confused. . . .
For 2009 there were big changes as I moved away from the factory Aprilia squad and signed for the Motoracing KTM team. It looked as though it was to be a great season as I stormed to pole position at the first GP of the season. Unfortunately though, things soon went wrong and there was a breakdown in team relations soon after and i was left without a ride. Thankfully KTM UK jumped to the rescue and that helped me go on to take his ninth British Supermoto title.
With not competing in all of the World Supermoto events it left me with more time to compete in Road Racing. That again came from help of KTM UK who allowed me to participate in selected rounds of the KTM RC8 Supercup. I took to it really well and in his 4 weekend outing was never off the podium which prompted SMT to once again give me the chance to ride one of their machines.
I was entered in the final round of the British Superstock 1000 Championship at Oulton Park. Racing against some of the best riders in the country, I did pretty good in qualifying and ended up an extremely credible 14th on the grid. The in the race I had a great time and moved forwards all race, eventually finishing in an unbelievable 6th position. That result turned plenty of heads and so for the 2010 season, I made a huge change in my career and went into Road Racing full time.
S**t’s getting serious . . . .
Initially aboard the SMT Superbike, I went up against some of the best riders in the World and showed some good speed despite not having much time on the bike. Later on in the season a forced switch saw me take up some rides in both the World and British Supersport championships, taking my first World Championship points in road racing along the way.
2011 was a great season as I teamed up with the Oxford TAG Triumph team. Despite showing excellent early speed, results were hard to come by at the start of the season but things came good at the end and I was never outside the top 4 in the last 9 races of the season and scored 5 podium finishes to end equal 5th overall in the championship. The run continued into 2012, returning to the Oxford TAG Triumph team with only a few difficult results at the start of the season putting an end to any championship hopes. However an incredible run at the end of the season made 9 podiums in 12 races taking 2 wins and 2 lap records along the way.
For 2013 I was presented with an incredible chance to race in World Supersport aboard the ParkinGO MV Agusta factory bike. After lots of development work at the beginning of the season things started to come to fruition later in the year and I was able to take 3 front row starts and even a podium at the MAGNY Cours round in France. Even more could have been possible but a few technical gremlins halted any chances.
The great end to the year caught the eye of top manager Francis Batta and the Alstare squad and 2014 was to be my first season in WSBK aboard the brand new Bimota BB3. Unfortunately due to homologation issues the team were never allowed to score points despite being able to race and following the Laguna Seca round the team was banned from competition. However, until that point it had been a great season with myself and team mate Badovini fighting at the very front of the Evo category. I was also allowed to do a one off BSB race at Assen where I took a pole position.
With my exploits at Assen I was able to catch the eye of many teams in BSB and 2015 saw a return to domestic competition aboard the Halsall Suzuki in which I was able to get some good results aboard a bike not known to be one of the better ones in the series. These strong showings caught the eye of another top team manager in the form of Philip Neill and the TYCO BMW squad which is where I spent the 2016 season.
It all started so well and I was able to take my first BSB podium, which I managed 6 times throughout the year and even lead the championship early on but, chance and circumstance meant eventually it just wasn’t the season we had really hoped for.
2017 and 18 and I stayed with the Tyco BMW squad but both seasons were marred by injury.
In 2017 I suffered a freak fall in which my leathers split open after hitting the ground at 140mph. It put me out of that particular round due to having a general anaesthetic at the event and the following round due to having a skin graft. I was back on the podium at the following race and despite everything we tried to get into the top 6 showdown but I narrowly missed out by 8 points. I ended up winning the riders cup (best of the rest)
2018, just weeks after finishing 3rd in the Le Mans 24 hour race I broke my hand at Oulton Park which put me out of that round. Despite missing that race I was in contention coming into the race before the showdown but I fell in qualifying and broke my collarbone. I had chance to still make it in though so I had it strapped up tightly and 3 hours later I raced. And then raced the next 2 races the following day. I missed the showdown by just 2 points!!!!
My time at Tyco BMW had been great but ultimately unfulfilled and 2019 was no exception to that. We had the new bike at our disposal but it never turned out to be the magic pill we hoped for. Despite progressing with the bike throughout the season, it was a very difficult year in terms of results and I had already decided early on that I would be leaving the team at the end of 2019. That was despite the fact I had no other ride lined up.
The end of the year came and we turned it around in the best way possible at once again took the riders cup trophy. It was little reward for all the hard work but still nice to get something.
To my honest and utter suprise, the championship winners (PBM Ducati) with whom I had been in talks with seemed much more keen to have me on the team than I had anticipated. With that, we quickly came to an agreement and for 2020 I was to be sat aboard the bike vacated by the reigning BSB champion.
I knew wholeheartedly that 2020 was a huge year for me with a lot of expectation and big consequences if I didn’t perform as required. At first I struggled to gel with the Ducati and there was an element of worry but come the first race of the Covid affected season and I finally found the feeling I was looking for.
Having struggled through testing and with the new Worldwide situation altering how the BSB race weekends ran, we never did manage to find the absolute sweet spot with the bike but I still managed my best ever season in BSB taking my first win, taking the championship to the final race of the year and rounding out 3rd in the overall standings.
For 2021 I remain with the Visiontrack PBM Ducati squad and I am keen to take what I have learnt last year and improve once more.
To be continued………