Racers and ex-racers

Chris Walker: Ex BSB and GP rider:

Cast your mind back a quarter of a century when Chris Walker wasn’t so much the wild riding Stalker as the barely out of nappies Toddler. Not that that was enough to stop him wanting to get in the seat – the problem was he just wasn’t big enough.

The man himself draws an entertaining picture of the event. There he is, out in front of the house on a bright day, watching his dad clean his bike. " I think it was a Kawasaki Z1B. My dad has spent ages cleaning it and getting it all perfect and I was out there pestering him for a go, just keeping on and on asking him to take me out. "

Pillions, of course, need to be able to reach the pillion pegs – that’s what they’re there for – and far from a giant now, Walker had no chance at all. Despite his father’s protests, he wasn’t taking " No " for an answer. A few (hundred) repeated requests finally wore the senior Walker down. He lifted Chris up, propped him on the tank, hands holding the middle of the bars over the yokes, and off they went.

With the Stalker pinned between his elbows and the throttle pinned to the stop the Big Kwak quickly dragged the duo up to the magic ton. Even at an early age, it made a lasting impression.

" It was the whole thrill of being on the bike and going fast. I just wanted to be on the bike so much that I kept on and on until he gave in. My dad told me when I was older that we’d done the ton. It was by a village near Nottingham, a place I still go by almost every day of my life, " he says. Interestingly there is no record of what any other family members thought of this stunt, though a policeman did give Walker senior a speeding ticket later that same day, with a different passenger on board.

Neil Hodgson: BSB champion and WSB star:

Neil Hodgson is no stranger to speed – like Walker and many other bike racers he came up from schoolboy motocross straight into road racing. He says: " My first ton was probably on my Yamaha TZR125. That’d probably do 100mph even at a track like Three Sisters but you don’t have a speedo. I know I would have been about 16 and I had the 125 flat out and it seemed bloody fast. "

But there is always more to come from racers. So Hodgson adds: " I remember my first 200mph! Well, not quite – I’ve had 196mph twice I think it was, at Monza and at Hockenheim in World Superbike races. When you’re by yourself it seems OK but when there are five other bikes around you and you’re all slip-streaming and trying to out-brake each other it is pretty scary. It’s only when you walk the track afterwards that you realise how fast you’re going in the race. The track seems really long and you can’t believe how early you’re on the brakes – you look at your braking marker and how far it is from the corner and you realise how much speed you’re trying to scrub off. "

Steve Parrish: TV commentator and ex-GP star:

I remember getting my licence about two days after my sixteenth birthday and straight away I bought a YDS3 Yamaha 250 from Hallans in Cambridge. I’d been saving for ages and ages, so I couldn’t wait to get it on the road. I’d been riding bikes in fields since I was a kid and I even used to steal my brothers Java 250 and take it out at night, but there were never straights long enough to get them past 60mph.

On my way home from the dealer I took the A10 and just did 100, well that’s what the speedo said anyway. Back then it was a massive threshold, it was the thing to do. I remember speeding pass Ford Anglias, it was very, very exhilirating. In those days the 100mph was very fast. It was something I dined out on for weeks afterwards down the youth club. Two months later I swapped my YDS3 for a 650 BSA Lightning.

Geoff Duke: Six-times world champion:

My first 100 was in my very first road race, the junior Manx in 1948, rushing down Bray Hill on my 350 Manx Norton. I’d been turned down for the junior Clubman the year before because I had no experience so I was amazed they took my entry. I had no mechanic and no spares so I held back on the practice afraid of blowing it off. In the race I took the first couple of laps easy before really shutting off. I remember rushing past the Grandstand and shooting down Bray’s. Those bikes didn’t handle too well and they just had ordinary tredded tyres. The roads were also quite rough in those days, peaked in the middle, falling away at each side. I just remember trying to hang on, you really felt it. The speedo read about 108mph. It was absolutely wonderful. There was no fear just an adrenalin rush, pure adrenalin. It was something I had wanted to do for years.

Niall Mackenzie: Triple BSB champion:

I was exactly 19 and I had this 350LC. I’d got the bike in the winter of 1980 and I’d never ridden anything that was capable of doing a 100 before so I’d been thinking about it most the winter. Me and my mates had gathered outside the local chippy in Denny which was the local gathering point in the village. There was this newish A road that ran past the chippy and I was the only one who had 100mph potential, I was the daddy. I had my head on the tank and my feet on the rear indicator and as I got just past the chippy I saw the speedo showing 110mph. I told my mates I’d made the 100. They didn’t believe me, but I knew it was true.

Wayne Gardner: 1987 500 GP champion:

I can’t remember exactly when it was (I’m getting old you know), but.the bike was a JAP 500cc dirt track racing bike – similar to a speedway bike, but with brakes. I remember it felt great – but it just made me want to go faster. The only repercussion was that my Mum was absolutely horrified and kept nagging me to slow down all the time!

MCN Staff

By MCN Staff