Friday 16 June 2023

Superbike throwback

With the British Superbike meeting at Knockhill less than an hour away from home this weekend and the withdrawal symptoms biting hard, a quick flick through the photo albums was needed to assuage the longing to be there in person. Family duties prevented a personal attendance this year so there was a distinct longing for the guttural, staccato and roaring sounds of motorcycle engines coupled with the smells of hot metal, clutches, brakes and oil, and of course, the speed.

Fortunately, a trawl through the archives sufficed to alleviate the craving – just a wee bit.

Niall and Louise
But exactly 20 years ago, three times British Superbike Champion Niall MacKenzie was at Knockhill for some pre-race media work which included taking an awfy talented young auto pilot for a pillion hurl around Knockhill’s notorious sweeps and dips. However, any hopes that the passenger entertained of switching careers were terminated more swiftly and permanently than a midge hitting a visor at 130 mph.

Sticking to winning trophies on four wheels seemed a much better idea after that.

Nearly 20 years earlier than that, another pic shows a young Niall with one of Scotland’s lost talents, Donnie McLeod, who had both signed for the Armstrong GP team.

After ten years struggling on the GP circuit as an amateur depending on Start money and Prize money, Donnie was signed up for the all-Scottish riding line-up. Sadly the Armstrong never achieved its promise, consistently down on power compared to the Japanese bikes. Donnie called it quits not long after that as Niall switched teams and moved on up the rankings.

There was no rancour or regret in Donnie’s decision, he had always said he would retire before he was too old to take up another career, which he did as a mechanical engineer and university tutor. Niall stuck with the bikes and formed his own racing team and also worked with his two boys Tarran and Taylor who both race bikes.

And two nicer blokes you’d be hard pressed to meet.

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