Saturday 3 June 2023

Road Racer

Unbelievable stuff … When I read the headlines: “Man and Machine make 135 mph average speed on west coast island circuit,” my first thought was Calum Duffy had borrowed David Bogie’s Mk2 for a pre-Mull practice.

Nope. Another man, another machine and another island.

Just when everyone else is convinced that Peter Hickman is ‘the man’ for this year’s TT, ‘yer maun’ Dunlop throws a mighty big spanner in the works. Incredible.

It’s made me want to read Michael’s book ‘Road Racer’ again. The first thought on finishing the book is that it is a work of fiction, then you read the name on the cover. Admittedly he had a little help stringing the words and unbelievable story together, especially from Jeff Hudson, but on turning every page there is an unsettling ring of truth and authenticity.

Unsettling, because of the hardship and tragedy that has marked every mile of his route to the top and the reader’s ultimate comprehension and gradual belief that this is indeed a true story.

I only met Michael once and that was at the 2017 Wales Rally GB. He was servicing for Barry McKenna’s Densport team. Michael has actually competed on a few rallies with a Densport Mk2 and it was his way of paying Barry back for all his help. It was also another way of learning about the intricacies and mechanics of a rally car.

Although he enjoys his rallying, the big difference is that a car cannot be physically heaved and manhandled about like a motor cycle, and Michael’s style is very physical. It requires more than just talent, skill and determination to ride a 200 mph Superbike, it requires brute strength and pig-headed stubbornness to wrestle the brute around 37 and three quarter miles of undulating, twisting, smooth, rough and unpredictable tarmac lined with trees and walls which are nothing but a blur of continuous colour whizzing past at a phenomenal speed.

Michael’s rise to the top is one of hardship, deprivation and perseverance but through it all runs a ferocious compulsion to ride a motor cycle fast. Not just fast, but faster than everyone else. Remind you of anyone? The name Joey comes to mind.

So if anyone ever tells you life is tough at the top, there are more than a few folk around motor sport who will tell you in no uncertain terms it can be a lot tougher at the bottom. Brutally so, and not everyone makes it.

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