It’s 75 degrees in the shade with hardly a breath of air, and the sun is glistening off the tarmac; in the distance, the diminutive figure of what can only be a top motorcycle racer’s silhouette, can be seen jogging around the circuit, plugged into the Sex Pistols on his iPod and thinking, ‘this is definitely the life.’
No it’s not the coast Road in Portrush, but the famous Monza circuit in Italy where 37-year-old Falkirk rider Keith Amor is getting away from it all, before tonight’s opening practice session at the Kennedy International North West 200 in association with Coca-Cola Zero.
Unlike his racing peers, who have more than likely been settling into the changeable Northern Ireland climate, Amor is soaking up the sun with his close friend and Honda World Superbike star Jonathan Rea, whilst also putting in some final preparation for one of the biggest tasks in his season: to win his first-ever international road race.
“I just like to get away from it all and over here I can chill out with Jonathan and relax,” explained Amor.
“At least I know the weather will be good, which means I can go back to Northern Ireland in a positive frame of mind.
“It’s good craic too as Jonathan, like me, is mega competitive and wants to win everything, whether it be making the best cup of tea, a game of golf or out running with me.”.
A bit of a late starter to the two wheeled discipline, Amor, a former Kart racer, commenced his bike career on the short circuit scene back in 2001 in his native Scotland, but explained, he’d never even contemplated road racing, never mind blasting into Coleraine on a Superbike at over 180mph!
“My dad moved over to Northern Ireland when he re-married and asked me to come over and see the North West — that was in 1999.
“I watched at the Magherabuoy chicane with my mate Derek, who’d always wanted me to have a go at road racing, but I was having none of it.
“Then in 2005, after a break from bikes, I had a change of heart.”
Amor’s change of heart immediately catapulted him into the headlines, when he put his privately entered Suzuki onto the front row of the Superstock class, and although he couldn’t replicate the qualifying position in the race, he’d certainly found his motorsport mojo.
“I only had a GSX–R1000 that first year for the Superstock class. I came with my youngest brother Guy who’s the brains in our family, and I wouldn’t go to a race meeting without him now to be honest.
“When we have, the wheels have nearly always fallen off. He’s my sort of safety blanket.”
While Amor hasn’t quite found the secret podium ingredients at the North West 200, he has a phenomenal record for someone with so little experience and candidly explained that 2009, just has to be his year.
“This year we have the bikes for the job in the Wilson Craig Honda team and although I expect the races to be a dog fight, I know we have the pace to run with the BSB guys.
“If you ask me what I’d be happy with on Saturday I’d have to say two or three podiums and a win.”
The words of a confident man.