At the moment my head is spinning from all the travelling I’ve done this month. I started flying from London to Dublin, Dublin to Gibraltar then Gibraltar to Monte Blanco for the three-day Fireblade test. From there I flew home for a day before flying from Manchester to Inverness to do a gig with Vauxhall. I’m now driving from Inverness to Edinburgh to fly to Belfast for the North West 200 press conference; then it’s off to Brooklands, my mechanic Julian Boland’s wedding, and finally home to Morecambe for a few days to see the family. I’m a bit worried the council may take my key to Morecambe back as I’ve been away so much...
The one day I did have at home between all this flying wasn’t exactly relaxing either, as it was Maisie’s seventh birthday party. So I was in a room full of kids going nuts and screaming the day after I had been on Julian’s stag do. And I was a little worse for wear, which didn’t help. It was funny, we rolled out of a club and Guy delivered me in his van to the airport, so not only was I feeling a bit tender, but I also had to put up with him gibbering rubbish at me for two and a half hours before the flight! But it was worth it – I didn’t want to miss Maisie’s party as I had missed Ewan’s 16th a few days earlier due to the test. I was gutted, but at least I found the time to give him his present – a Honda X8R-S scooter that I won after my first TT and have kept ever since.
The test itself went really well. The new Blade – with its electronics – is complicated, and that made it quite frustrating until we got on top of it. Once the wheels were turning and we understood the bike it was good. But at the start it was a bit tricky as Guy was on his head and I threw it down the road as well.
To be honest, I got a bit giddy. The sun was out, the track was warm, and I was feeling good. Monte Blanco is full of hairpins and I just lost it going into one. It wasn’t a biggy, but probably because I’m northern and tight I didn’t want to let go of the bike, so I got trapped under it and took a bit of a beating. I got a whack on my arse, on my shoulders, and my thumb got bashed, but I was OK to carry on. Guy even helped get my bike fixed up; he was there with a soldering iron, sorting the electrics!
The new Blade’s chassis is pretty similar to my old bike’s, but there was nothing wrong with that anyway. But it has more power and better electronics. The auto-blipper is taking a bit of getting used to as I’ve used a clutch to change down since 1990. But I just need to learn how to use it. And that’s all we need – time. As the bike is new, we need to develop and Superstock race at Oulton Park BSB to help this process. Then we have a test at Castle Combe, and more track time if we need it. At the end of the day, the first test is as much about getting the team together as it is sorting the bike. And the team is certainly gelling.
All I get asked about is how Guy is getting on and how he is fitting in with the team. He’s a good chap, fits in, but I keep telling him he is my team-mate, not the other way around... I’ve had so many team-mates over the years, from Joey to Simon Andrews. Guy is just one more. Although he is the only one that says his dog talks to him! I had to tell him that his dog doesn’t talk to him, it just barks... He is adamant it does, but that’s just Guy.
During one interview he asked when I last laid a brick, so I said 1998. But I’ve done it again recently just to keep my eye in, and sent him a picture. I was awarded the silver trowel two years running at college, so I do know how to build a wall and the magic is still there. That said, I’d rather guide my dad into my mum than go back into bricklaying...
Moving off that subject, I was in Gibraltar for a gig with BetVictor that involved riding a Fireblade on the airport’s runway, which was cool! They wanted one of my Superstockers for their new office so we stuck a bike in a van and I rode it around the peninsula before a few high-speed runs of the runway. The RAF closed the runway and held up all the flights while I blasted up and down. It’s a bloody short runway and I nearly ended up throwing the bike into the sea, which would have been a bit embarrassing. It was all good, though, and I even won £280 in the casino that night!
I’ve also been putting the final touches to my book – Built for Speed. It’s not all laptimes and talking tyres; it’s more about me growing up and racing. I’ve read the final draft and it made me laugh and cry, which I think is a good thing. I’ll probably be selling it out the back of my van like Del Boy at race meets.