Former BSB champion and now team owner of the e-PayMe Yamaha squad who walked away from the sport at just 26. Tommy Hill talks about riding round fridges, almost dying… and failing his theory test.
‘I don’t have a road bike licence – it’s a bit weird’
How did you first get into bikes?
Me and my brother used to ride BMX with two brothers who also did motocross so we went along with them one day and that was it – I got a Yamaha PW50 and my brother got a 100cc Kawasaki. I was six years old.
‘I was six and we never looked back’
Did your parents approve?
Yeah, it was just seen as a bit of fun. We used to go to this local track that had dishwashers and fridges coming out of it everywhere. Then I got Perthes Disease in my hip so my bones started to crumble because they weren’t getting enough blood supply. I took a bit of time out and then had another go and ended up doing schoolboy motocross.
What level did you get to?
Just schoolboy British stuff but we raced all over the country and won quite a few championships.
So how did the interest in road racing come about?
Well, I almost lost my life at 14 after I crashed and punctured my lung, broke ribs, punctured my spleen, ruptured my kidney... That’s what made me and my parents think we should take the safer option and switch to road racing! Yeah, let’s go ten times as fast!
So you never rode on the road?
This is going to shock everyone but, no, I never have. I’ve done a lot of riding tuition since I retired in 2012 and I’d be giving talks on body position and riding style and pupils will ask me what bike I ride and I say “None! I don’t have a bike licence!” It’s a bit weird.
Have you tried to sit your bike test?
I sat the theory test a few years ago but failed it first time and was gutted. I did it again and passed so was all ready to do my CBT but never got round to it and now my theory test has lapsed. I’m gutted that I have to do it again.
You must have some dirt bikes in your garage though, right?
Well, I did do until a few months ago but I sold my Yamaha YZF250 motocross bike because I was getting really p*ssed off that I wasn’t faster than I was. My mind was telling me I could do it as well as I’d ever done it but my body had different ideas! After four or five laps it was saying “No, we can’t do this anymore!” It was going to end in an accident so I sold the bike and bought a go-kart instead. I still own a couple of trials bikes though – a Beta 250 and a Sherco 290.
What would you consider to be the highlight of your racing career?
Winning the BSB title at Brands Hatch in 2011 when I beat John Hopkins by six-thousandths of a second.
Swan Yamaha R1
‘I won by six-thousandths of a second’
And your lowest moment?
2007 when I snapped my tibia, fibula, femur and arm in one crash. I was in a wheelchair for ten weeks after that.
Is running your e-PayMe team even more stressful than riding?
Yes, it’s 100% more stressful! I look after the parts, the social media, the website, the technical side, the budgets, the riders. I’ve definitely got a few grey hairs coming through now!
If you do finally get your licence, what sort of bike would you own?
Probably a cruiser or a classic racer like a Manx Norton. But I’d trick it up and paint it matt black and do something a bit quirky with it. I’ve spent all my life around sportsbikes so I’d want something I could just ride for fun.
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