Belfast Telegraph

Ryan Farquhar: I'm happy with the road I've travelled

After conquering bike racing, comeback king Ryan Farquhar is training his sights on more international recognition - as a shooter!

By Paul Lindsay

Dungannon has produced many sporting greats over the years, most notable of all being 2011 Open golf champion Darren Clarke.

The big man from County Tyrone is a global sporting icon, having won a raft of titles, topped by the Open Championship in 2011, and will captain the European Ryder Cup team later this year in America.

Paradoxically, motorcycling may well be an unofficial part of Northern Ireland heritage, but on the global stage it really is small pickings, compared to the lofty heights of golf and the glitzy world of million dollar pay cheques, afforded to the likes of Clarke, Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy.

Despite this, another of Dungannon's homegrown sporting stars, Ryan Farquhar, is a virtual household name in the province, after becoming the most successful National Road Racer of all time in a career that has spanned two decades, with over 200 career victories.

Like most of the hardy competitors in the world of pure road racing, Ryan has experienced some difficult days along the way, losing friends and rivals to the sport that also claimed the life of his uncle Trevor Ferguson on the Isle of Man back in 2012.

Farquhar decided to hang up his leathers after that harrowing ordeal, opting to move into full-time management with his hugely successful KMR Kawasaki team, but with the racing DNA still running hot in his veins, he returned to the roads in 2014.

But a lot has changed in the past four years, with the scars of battle and personal tragedy having left an indelible mark on the Co Tyrone family man.

While he still races, 'for fun these days', as he so eloquently puts it, he has also diversified into a whole new sporting discipline, while setting large chunks of time aside for his daughters Keeley and Mya (their initials, along with his, making up the KMR team name).

"I have to say when I returned to racing in 2014, it really was the most enjoyable year I've had racing in a long time," explained Farquhar, who will hit another milestone when he turns 40 at the beginning of next month.

"It's very hard to get a work, life balance when you are racing full-time. I was working at it 24-7, and finishing second and third in five races over a weekend was no good. I needed to win to get a wage and pay the bills and with that adds pressure," he said.

"Then, when I did retire, running a team with a big sponsor and lads crashing bikes added to the workload; it was just too much for a one man band. So, scaling back and riding the odd time myself has been the way to go," added the three-time Isle of Man TT winner.

On the flip side of his semi-retirement, Farquhar has discovered a new passion - clay pigeon shooting, which just this week he used to raise much needed funds for an organisation that's very close to his heart.

"My wife Karen and I have been fortunate enough to be invited guests of the SPARKS NI Motorsport Charity dinner on a number of occasions," he said of the Action Medical Research fundraising event.

"So I organised a charity shoot, followed by a fun Pool competition in my bar at home and we raised £2,000, he said.

"It was only by chance that I got into shooting, after being invited to a charity event myself," added Farquhar, who only pursued his newfound passion after performing so badly.

"I was pure rubbish that day which made me want to perfect it," which isn't surprising from a man who pioneered Supertwin racing to international standard, after he was told he could never make it happen.

"I've even got Jeremy McWilliams into it," he said of his KMR Kawasaki team-mate and former Grand Prix racer.

"The problem with Jeremy is he's so competitive. He's very good at golf and obviously a genius on a motorcycle, but he's really no use at shooting!"

The charity action has all been captured for an upcoming documentary on the Dungannon ace, who says the only thing left on his bucket list is to represent Northern Ireland behind the gun.

"I'm happy, proud and satisfied with my achievements in racing," he said.

"But I'd like to represent Northern Ireland at clay pigeon shooting. My problem is, there are a number of compulsory shoots that clash with a few races that I intend doing this year, but I'm making a plan to work around it."

On the family front, Ryan is also enjoying spending more time with Karen and their daughters.

But later this month he will leave the cold Northern Ireland winter behind, as he looks to lead his British racing team to victory once again at the perennial Island Classic event in Australia.

It's dubbed a fun event with stubby holders and cold beers playing a significant role for the elder statesmen who grace the event.

But with his usual steely gaze and unfiltered response, the mischievous Dungannon man said: "We have a few beers and meals out with the Aussie guys, but it's a big event in Australia and when we are on track it really is full on."

If Farquhar had his career over again, though, would he opt for a golf bag instead of a helmet?

"I wouldn't fancy carrying Darren Clarke's golf bag but his wallet would do the very best," he joked, before concluding: "No not at all. I'm happy with the road I took, and to be mentioned in the same breath as big Darren and rally champion Kris Meeke makes me proud to be from Dungannon and Northern Ireland.

Belfast Telegraph


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