Belfast Telegraph

I’m so saddened but riders know risks: TT legend

By Paul Lindsay

The dangers of racing high speed motorcycles has been illuminated in the past couple of weeks, with fatalities both at the International North West 200 and in recent days at the Isle of Man TT.

I’ve been involved in the sport for over 15 years as a publisher, photo-journalist and event promoter, and worked with both Simon Andrews, who sadly lost his life after an incident at the North West 200, and three-time British Supersport champion Karl Harris, who passed away yesterday following a crash in the TT Superstock race.

Both men had a huge zest for life and loved every aspect of what their chosen profession entailed. Both were talented and astute sportsmen. Ironically, unlike many of our homegrown stars in Ireland, both Simon and Karl excelled on the British circuit scene before making the decision to go pure road racing.

There’s a myth that road racing is for unsuccessful circuit stars, but when you look at those who have opted to take on the challenge of the Mountain Course over the years, you could compile a huge dossier of former Grand Prix winners,

world champions and regular British championship podium finishers.

One man who understands the highs and lows of road racing and adrenalin-filled lure of the Mountain Course, is 11-time TT winner Phillip McCallen.

Affectionately known as Supermac during his heyday during the late 80s and throughout the 90s, McCallen also competed successfully at British championship level but explained just why closed circuit racing never quite had the same appeal to the stone wall-lined 37.73-miles of sinuous tarmac on the Isle of Man’s famous Mountain Circuit.

“As a kid I always had this secret desire to race the TT some day. So when I came here in the late 80s and took up the challenge of trying to beat Joey Dunlop, Brian Reid and Steven Cull I knew it’s what I wanted to achieve,” he said.

Despite high-speed TT crashes at Quarry Bends and Waterworks, the Portadown man’s career ironically came to an abrupt halt following a crash at a purpose-built circuit.

Speaking of his crashes and why he decided to continue his love affair with the TT, McCallen said: “Yes I’ve slid off at the TT at over 150mph at Quarry Bends and also at the Waterworks where Gary Johnson crashed this week. But it’s all about trying to perfect it and doing it with respect for the circuit.”

Explaining the attraction, he added: “It’s the biggest challenge in the world on two wheels. People want to climb mountains, and conquering Everest is the biggest they can possibly take on. So for a biker, to win a TT is the biggest challenge and a huge adrenalin rush.”

McCallen then backed his beloved sport by highlighting often over-looked statistics in other areas of life.

“In the last two months we have lost eight fishermen in Ireland — at the North West we have lost four riders in 10 years,” he said.

“No loss of life is acceptable, but we know the risks when we go racing. But then we have these people who want to ban it, yet know nothing about it.

“At the NW200, 80,000 people stand trackside and they don’t want it to stopped do they?

“The event is broadcast into 650 million homes worldwide post event.

“The TT figures are even greater — so that tells us the appeal for competitors and fans alike.”

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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