Celebrating Black History Month: As one of the few mixed race riders in bikesport, Asher Durham hopes he can inspire others

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Asher Durham is a BSB Junior Superstock 600 racer who started in motocross and then became the youngest ever rider to compete in the 125cc British championship at the age of 13. He went on to be a finalist in the Red Bull Rookies selection event before making a move to the Motostar championship.

In 2020 he made the move to the Junior Superstock 600 class on the Microlise Cresswell ZX-6RR. Asher produced the following column for MCN during Black History Month - discussing his experiences of motorcycle racing as an ethnic minority. Read it in full below:

The fact that you have to think so hard to remember any black riders in racing is crazy.

There have been times in my career where I’ve been treated differently. At the start of this season, for example, I had a BLM sticker on my seat, it was only small and in the same place where Rossi has a sticker of his dogs.

One of my mechanics went to pick up the bike after all the graphics had been done and he said that he wouldn’t be working with me because of the sticker and that I was being racist. He refused to work with me.

Asher Durham on the grid

What I’ve actually found is that there are people in the paddock who lack understanding. They can be ignorant and as a result they say things that aren’t right but they don’t think there is anything wrong with it.

It’s bad but when you are the only mixed race rider (my mum is half Cypriot and half English and my dad is from St Vincent) but you kind of become accustomed to it after a while, as there is no-one else that really understands it to fight your corner.

I don’t blame people for it because if throughout their lives they haven’t seen it themselves they don’t understand it. I think the majority of the time it’s ignorance, not racism.

The BLM movement can be quite scary because all eyes are on you. I had a helmet sprayed at the start of the year with it on. I wanted to use it, but because I’m not running at the front this season I was nervous about what attention it would get – in a negative way.

Asher Durham on the podium

In terms of securing sponsors I don’t think it’s either helped or hindered. It could be good; if I’m the only black guy racing then I can say I’m the fastest black rider in the world!

Rossi is my role model, I can remember watching a race with him and Capirossi when I was so young and since then I’ve always wanted to ride. It was 2004, I was only five or six and he was in his absolute prime. I got my first bike which was a Chinese motocross the bike the following Christmas. 

Lewis Hamilton is another role model because of his status, despite everyone seemingly slating him at the moment for expressing his views. To me its crazy and I think it would be even worse for him if he was further down the field and not winning.

I think it’s good that he has the leverage to be able to voice his opinion because it could easily affect him in a negative way if he wasn’t winning. As a black athlete it really inspiring to me because he’s promoting such a positive message.

In motocross in the early days there were kids that were openly racist. I still hear a lot of comments that someone has said something about me, but they don’t say it to my face. I think the era when Lewis started racing was definitely worse.

Asher Durham on track

For me one of the biggest problems is closet racists where they either don’t understand the subject or they don’t think they are prejudiced at all.

As to why there aren’t more black riders, I think it comes down to the families. I’m not saying it’s black poverty, more just that these families wouldn’t consider spending their money on going racing, but saying that I think there are a lot of families in many communities that don’t want to spend their money on racing!

My dad pretty much ran out of money in 2015 so for the last five years I’ve been working hard with my team which is Microlise Cresswell to continue and progress.

There is also a lack of black mechanics and there is a lack of black spectators coming to watch. I think Lewis Hamilton has definitely attracted more black people to F1. I think this is a big factor in getting people interested.

So what I need to do now is work my way up and become British Superbike champion as that would get more people interested!

We’ve seen Hamilton work to get young black drivers into motorsport and I think something like that needs to happen with motorcycle racing. This is big picture stuff, but if I was ever in a position to do something myself, I’d like to try and bring a wave of new black talent into the bike paddock. That’s all in the future though, for now I need to focus on trying to win…

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MCN

By MCN

The voice of motorcycling since 1955