My life in bikes: Fred MacSorley

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‘I went over the bonnet of an off-duty policeman’s car’

NW200 ‘Flying Doctor’ on crashes, his modified Triumph and saving lives 

How long have you been riding?

I’ve been riding since I was a second year medical student – but you don’t want to know how long ago that was! It was about 1974, and I bought a CB175. I enjoyed riding it, and I thought I knew how to ride, but looking back on it I really didn’t! It came to an abrupt stop when I went over the bonnet of an off-duty policeman’s car, and got fined in court. That was the – temporary – end of my career, but my father rode a bike and I got back into it much later.

My dad took me to the North West 200 as a very young child, and I think it’s in my blood. I got back into road racing as a medical student and recognised that it was dangerous, and that people were dying unnecessarily – so when I qualified, I went back and have been here ever since!

What’s been your favourite bike?

I had an Aprilia Falco that I absolutely loved. Aprilia lent it to me for five years, and no-one had ever given me a bike before or sponsored me. I always bought my own bikes. I loved the V-twin grunt, and the way it handled.

My Triumph Tiger is now on its ninth year, and it’s probably my favourite bike. I bought it from Phillip McCallen, and traded in an RSV Mille that was really too much for me. I realised I couldn’t ride it, that I needed something more realistic.

Great V-twin grunt
Aprilia Falco
‘No-one had given me a bike before’

And the Triumph isn’t exactly standard, is it?

It’s got an Öhlins rear shock, K-Tech fork internals, and the yoke has been dropped down the fork to sharpen it up a bit – and it makes it better than I’ll ever be. It’s also got a carbon fibre oxygen cylinder with a Kevlar wrap and a defibrillator fitted to it, which sets it apart from most Tigers. Then there’s all the rest of the gear that I carry all the time. You certainly don’t need to take the dog for a walk after a day in 25°C heat after carrying it all. 

What has been your worst accident?

I’ve had three tumbles. One was the policeman incident. One was in my very early days at Mondello Park trying to keep up with the Porsche 911 course car in the pouring rain at a European championship race. I lost the front, and it felt like I slid for about 400 miles. I can still remember the crowd cheering as I was sliding along the track.

The third one was losing the front end at the hairpin at Kirkiston at about 30mph on a cold, bitter winter trackday session with Woolsley Coulter at his race school, on my Aprilia RSV4.

Pioneering medic
Ducati 900SS
‘People were dying unnecessarily’

Photos: Pacemaker Press International