The “Rock and roll lifestyle” of a TT privateer!
As this is the first instalment of my blog I thought I’d do a bit of an overview of what I do and my racing history, get you up to speed with the not quite rock and roll lifestyle of a TT privateer.
I started racing when I was 19 on my RVF400 road bike, me and a couple of mates fitted some fibreglass bodywork and lock wired the necessaries and off I went to Snetterton for a Bemsee meeting.
Up to this point I’d done 1 trackday and a couple of years of road riding, I’d never seen Snetterton, I’d never even been to Norfolk, why would I? Carrots grow in Lincolnshire too.
That Snetterton meeting was a definite eye opener, I was young and thought I was fast. I wasn’t. Mid way through the test day, mid way through Coram’s, as much lean angle as I thought was possible and Jason Holland rode around the outside of me, inside the guy in front, outside the guy in front of that and just disappeared. He must have been cheating, surely. I was doing 1.29’s… the fast boys were doing more than 10 seconds a lap better, there was work to be done.
2 years later I was winning races on a ZXR400, I was the one riding around the outside of rookies. My first win was at Brands Hatch at the start of 2002. It was epic, the best feeling in the world. I’ve never done drugs but I can’t believe they could ever feel as good as winning, because winning is so personal, it’s a result of a lot of hard work, a lot of money and a lot of self belief. I’ve met guys to whom winning comes easily, natural talent or bravery they have in abundance, I’m not one of them. I need to know how it all works, the details of how I should ride, what I can do better, how I can improve the bike. I’ve worked hard to be decent on a bike but it’s all worth it when you win or hit a personal target.
Crashing is part and parcel of going fast, when you start racing you make a lot of mistakes, you don’t know any better. Most of the mistakes you get away with and hopefully learn from so you don’t keep making them, other mistakes involve picking your bike up from a gravel trap or if you’re unlucky a trip in an ambulance. I’ve done both numerous times over the years. I’ve learnt that crashing can be expensive, destructive, deadly and on occasions really quite funny.
Back in 2004 I was racing an ex BSS R6, probably the most trick bike I’ve ever owned, it was terrible and took me and my mate a year to figure out, during that year I was mostly slow and occasionally stationary. At croft, in the rain on a practice day I clipped a white line through the esses at the back of the circuit, fastest corner on the track, as the tarmac ended and I dropped a couple of inches onto the old broken up concrete of the WW2 runway I was washed over by what felt like a tidal wave a freezing cold rain water, this did little to slow me down and as I looked at the next obstacle I assumed it was going to hurt. Hay bales are not soft, they do slow you down but not very gently. I was sliding feet first and instinctively closed my legs and shut my eyes, but there was no impact. When I finally stopped sliding I was about 2 feet from the marshall post, my bike must have destroyed the bale just before I got there. I was covered head to toe in hay and looked like a scarecrow. I got to my feet, adrenaline pumping and the first thing the marshall said to me wasn’t “are you ok” but rather, in a thick Yorkshire accent “can you pick your bike up and move it”. Apparently, my bodily condition was secondary to her needing to move her fat arse. When I look back it does make me laugh though.
Since then I’ve raced National superstock for a couple of years, this seemed to mostly involve spending more money than I had to be treated badly and ignored, but when you’re there in that paddock you feel like you’ve made it, whatever it is.
But the isle of man bug was niggling at me. In 2005 I finished at Cadwell BSB, had a few hours sleep, jumped on my £400, 70,000 mile zxr750 and headed for Liverpool dock. This time it was to board a ferry, not to earn extra racing funds from drunken sailors!
I arrived on a wet and miserable isle of man and instantly got lost. I’d assumed it’d be obvious where the Manx GP/TT paddock was but I managed to miss it and by the time I got to laxey was cold and wet and finally realising I was lost. After I’d turned around and almost fallen off on wet tram lines I made my way back to Douglas. A friend ‘Classic Alan’ was racing his 250 Ducati in the Manx GP and I was kipping in his Transit van. Over the following few days I roamed the island, sat on wet grass waiting for races to be cancelled and never quite clicked with the island. The circuit was too long to comprehend, the weather was crap and I decided I never needed to go back. But of course, I did go back. It was as if the island was calling out to me, more whispering really.
so a year later I finished at Cadwell BSB, got a few hours sleep, took some painkillers for a shoulder niggle I’d picked up, jumped on the same old ZXR and off I went again. ‘Classic Alan’ was racing again and the weather was much kinder, Mannanan barely cast his cloak. The pivotal moment came about an hour before my ferry
home, I went for one last lap, the roads were quite after the evening rush hour had subsided, the sun cast long shadows with it’s deep orange glow and the island was mine. The mountain flowed, I’d learnt enough only to know that there weren’t any really sharp bends so I rode fast but left a bit in reserve, enough brain capacity to think, to enjoy. I knew I had to race the island.
The following year, 2007, I lined up on Glen Grutchery Road on a wheel barrow ZX10 for the start of not only my first TT but also my first road race. Most do the NW200, Oliver’s Mount or a few Irish national meetings but I only wanted to race the Island. As I’d done a couple of seasons of BSB level racing I was graded straight to TT so never rode the Manx GP. I was a rookie again and the speed that Martin Finnegan and Guy Martin came past me through conker trees showed me I had as much to learn as when Jason Holland had ridden around me an Snetterton 7 years before.
I’ve now been racing the TT for 10 years, I’ve lapped at just over 122mph so I’m far from the fastest but I’m still here so it’s going OK. Later in 2007 I raced Oliver’s mount for the first time, I won the superbike B final and had two days filled with great racing surrounded by people who wanted the buzz of the roads and didn’t care how flash your sunglasses were or how white your trainers were. The weekend before I’d done my last ever BSB meeting at Donnington. 120 miles but a world apart from the Mount. Road racing had reignited my passion for racing.
Over those last 10 years I’ve raced ZX10’s, ZX6, R6, RSV4 and now a BMW and another ZX6. I’ve also been very lucky to have been given the opportunities to race a TZ250 and Ducati 888 at the Classic TT.
I’ve ridden the NW200, which was much better before they put the chicane in at Mather’s Cross, the Ulster GP which is the fastest and scariest race each year and few of the Irish nationals, Tandragee, Cookstown and Armoy. The most fun weekends racing is be Aberdare Park in south Wales, racing around a Victorian Municipal park on an array of odd bikes, fall off and you could end up in a boating lake, flower bed or Oak tree! Best to stay on and enjoy the atmosphere of the prize giving at the miner’s club on Saturday night. I still race a few short circuits to keep me up to speed, I always push harder on short circuits than roads so they’re good to keep me sharp.
2017 I’ll be at it again, another year of hard work, sacrifices, money, pain and hopefully some amazing highs. I’ve still got targets to hit and I still love racing so I keep going. I must be mad. Hopefully you’ll join me for the ride.
Dave Hewson sponsors:
Obsession Engineering LTD, Carrot Cycles, Shorai, Motul, Shark Helmets, B&C express, Renthal, Tsubaki, EBC, A16 road and Race and Slingshot Racing.com
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