Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 2 September 2014

North West 200: Kirk Jamison goes from 9 to 5... to 105mph

Relentless International North West 200. Irish road racer Kirk Jamison.
Take that! They might be brothers but there is intense rivalry between William Dunlop and his brother Michael, even if its only on the dodgems at Barry's in Portrush.
North West 200 practice night 17th May 2011.Ian Lougher.

Kirk Jamison enjoyed a rare lie-in on the morning after his first taste of road racing, North West style, the night before.

Clearly the experience didn't cause him to lose much sleep . . . or maybe he was catching up from waking hours spent thinking about it.

At the age of 30, the father of four and 9 to 5 working man, suddenly decided he needed a bigger challenge than speeding around short circuit tracks, quite successfully, for the past 10 years.

So what made him do it — swap the relative comfort zone of the closed tracks for the ever-present danger of haring at high speed along public roads between hedges and hazards of all kinds?

Especially when he had to borrow money for the privilege.

“It was just an itch I had to scratch,” explains the engaging character from Greyabbey in Co Down, still relaxing in the rain yesterday at his team truck in the paddock behind the hospitality marquee.

Its Tuesday night patrons, who just love a self-made local rider, cheered as he clocked a top speed of 105.377mph, rounding the 8.9 mile circuit in five minutes 6.443 seconds on his Yamaha Supersport bike for a creditable 18th from 52 riders. Not bad for a beginner as pole man Cameron Donald hit 114.259.

The bonus was an extra hour's kip —a luxury for the construction firm commercial manager in his day job.

He will have set his clock earlier again this morning for the daytime practice, another learning curve, knowing however hard he rides, he'll have little chance of getting close to the front of the grid for Saturday or even onto a step of the winners' podium.

For Jamison, the joy and thrill is in taking part and in ticking

another box in his bike racing career, as he puts it.

And in that philosophy, shared right through the middle order to the back of the grid, lies the beauty of the North West — a mighty beast of an event dominated by the big factory bankrolled teams yet where the ordinary 5-8 rider can still live the dream. Like a Ballydrain Harrier taking on the Olympic 100 metres contenders.

The big name and pay packet riders, as in all sports, enjoy the perks and publicity, and in truth, they earn that.

Jamison agrees: “I don't begrudge the full-time riders at all. But when they wake up on a Monday morning they don't have to think about their mortgages or going out to work to provide for their families. Every

thing is taken care of. They can go the gym to keep in shape, I can't remember the last time I did that, and there's no expense spared on their bikes.”

The BMW100RR bike, or missile as he calls it, which Jamison will ride in Saturday's Superstock race cost him £18,000.

If he didn't know his way round the North West til Tuesday, the machine certainly does . . . previous owner, Scot Keith Amor, won on it here last year.

All told, he estimates £30,000 shelled out to go racing each season.

“I couldn't afford that out of my own pocket,” he says. “I'm lucky with the sponsors I have and also a wee supporters club who raise money from clay pigeon shoots, pub quizzes and the like.

“I don't have one major sponsor putting in 10 or 20 thousand — it's small amounts here and there from various sources and a lot of goodwill.

“Lots of riders would be in the

same position. My employers are good to me as well. I work for H&J Martin where luckily there's a bike connection. My boss Jim Creagh is the son of the Motorcycle Union official of the same name.

“I've also got former Grand Prix racer Jeremy McWilliams assisting with bike set-up.

“Jim Angus Contracts run the Supersport Yamaha and Tim Martin, of Mar-Train, the BMW. Jim's also using the Yamaha to raise money for the race charity, Marie Curie Cancer Care. It's good to be able to do that.

“I've a family, so I wouldn't get myself into debt to keep racing, though I have borrowed a few quid, which I'm paying back, just to do the North West.

“I'm at the point in my career where I simply had to. When people hear I’m a racer the first question they ask is if I've done the North West.

“I've been as a spectator and felt the buzz and magic about it. I’ve always wanted to race here, all the way through my career, and now the time feels right.

“All motorsports are dangerous, so that wasn't the issue. But its probably fair to say that I'm better equipped now than when I was younger and more likely to take risks.”

So did the initial experience live up to expectations?

“I can see where a rider who isn't careful can get hurt,” he admits.

“But I went out better for the schooling all newcomers are given, this year from three vastly experienced hands in Phillip McCallen, Steve Plater and Michael Swann.

“I didn't really notice much off the track going round in practice but then I wasn't on a sight-seeing trip at 100mph. It was an experience, alright, and I can now understand the attraction for the adrenalin rush it gives both to riders and fans.”

That, and an extra hour in bed!

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