At home with the Mackenzies
Twenty years ago, at the ripe old age of 35, former 500cc Grand Prix racer Niall Mackenzie stormed to the first of three British Superbike titles. Now, two decades on, the Mackenzie name is popping open the champagne on the British Championship podium once again.
Niall might have retired from competitive racing some 16 years ago, but a race weekend has never been busier for the 55-year-old with both of his sons now competing at the top of their game.
Tarran (21) and Taylor (23) took the paddock by storm this year as they each became champions in their respective classes when it’s fair to say, nobody was expecting it.
Having raced for a number of years, Taylor has competed at numerous levels including in 125cc World Championship Grand Prix, British Supersport and British Superbikes but enjoyed very limited success. This year, he dominated the Superstock 1000 class to beat road racing star Ian Hutchinson to the title.
While Tarran’s career has been shorter, it has been more successful with the younger Mackenzie having fought for, but not won, championships in the British Motostar and Superstock 600 classes. However, for the 21-year-old to take victory in his rookie British Supersport season was nothing short of remarkable.
We sat down with the three Mackenzie’s at their Derbyshire home to delve in to just what makes the three of them so damned quick, how they work together and of course, who the hell is quickest?!
So, you’ve both won British/National championships this year, 20 years after your Dad won his first British title. Is being fast on a motorcycle a genetic trait?
Taylor: I think it has to be. There are definitely different parts of Dad in both of us, at least. I mean, Taz has a terrible riding style, he looks just like Dad on a bike!
Taz: Yeah, people will always say ‘you look so much like your Dad on the bike’ and I’ll respond with ‘yeah, it’s not a f**king good thing, he’s got a crap riding style!’. Joking aside though, there’s definitely something passed on.
Niall: I’m not so sure about genetics. McWilliams’ lads aren’t bothered about racing and Neil Hodgson is always saying how his little boy just hasn’t got any interest in the sport. My kids grew up in the paddock, they were in the motorhome when I was racing so they know how it works.
Taz: We didn’t actually start proper racing until quite late. Bike racing was just another hobby to us.
Niall: I remember Scott Redding winning the British GP on a 125 and I googled him and he’d been racing ten years! I nearly said I couldn’t believe what he’s done. I thought we may as well not bother with these boys as if they started then they’d never win in Grand Prix! But we kind of did our own little thing, they were still young when we started but they did alright.
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Does your Dad push you a lot?
Niall: They push themselves. If they didn’t I would have a quiet word, but to be honest if they weren’t pushing themselves I’d say we shouldn’t be doing this.
Taz: He used to tell us that Ron would make Leon clean his leathers and pack the van to make sure he’s interested enough to do it. We always knew he wasn’t going to force us into this, it was only if we were interested enough to do it.
Taylor: You can’t not be self-motivated in this game, if you need someone to tell you to do it it’s just not going to happen.
Taz: I think that’s why we get on so well, because we don’t have Dad pushing us.
Niall: Taylor had a shit season last year, but there was one morning I looked out the front at like 7 in the morning and saw someone running past and realised it was him. Things like that show me just how dedicated and up for this they are. I don’t need to push them any harder.
You’re all quite competitive, though right? Who is the most competitive?
Taz: No I am!
Taylor: We’re both pretty competitive really. It’s Dad’s fault! He’d use to race us at everything as kids, that’s how he’d make us do anything. He’d time us to get a biscuit from the kitchen or tidy our bedrooms. I don’t know if that’s genetics or anything but yeah, we’re competitive.
Niall: Interestingly they aren’t that competitive with each other, just their rivals.
Taylor: The Lowes’ twins are ultra-competitive with each other, they don’t like getting beat at anything but for me, I just don’t like getting beaten at the right things.
Niall: Foggy was like that. He’d be proper mad if he’d get beat at pool or anything. I could definitely switch off from that. I didn’t need to win those things, no point in getting upset but anything I thought I should be good at, whether it was karting or riding bikes then I’d be upset if I wasn’t on top.
Is there any pressure on you boys for being Niall Mackenzie’s sons?
Taz: We don’t even rate Dad, we’ve seen him ride in the garden!
Taylor: Stupid thing is we don’t know the Niall Mackenzie that used to race. Old blokes come up licking Dad to death and dribbling over him and we’re like ‘er that’s my Dad…’
Niall: I do try to remind them how fast I was…
Taz: At the end of the day he’s like anyone else’s Dad. You still take the mick and you’re still embarrassed by what they do. If you’ve got a racing family, that’s where it’s different. He can point out what we’re doing right or wrong, but that’s the only difference.
Do the three of you train together?
Taz: Yeah, we’ve got a track in the back garden. Dad likes to pretend he’s better than us.
Taylor: To be fair, we’ve got much better at passing people when racing because to pass Dad out in the garden is like the hardest thing. He’s the widest vehicle around that track!
Niall: They train together; I take part…
Taz: If we’re on holiday or whatever and go on a run Dad will come with us. He thinks he’s not fit but he’s doing alright.
Who is the quickest in the garden?
Taylor: It generally depends on the day, but definitely me
Taz: Dad thinks he’s the man but he’s not always, the track changes. The thing is, we’re fearless out there, Dad less so! He’d rather sleep in his own bed than a hospital bed.
Taylor: We have had some serious crashes in that back garden. The week before Assen in 2014, I crashed and Taz hit me flat out in third gear and ran over my neck, he crashed too. He reckoned he’d broken his neck, we were both laid there. Mum was doing the dishes and it all went quiet so she thought she better come out and check we were OK.
Taz: We used to do things like ride as hard as we can at each other and barge eachother out of the way but when that happened we had to stop that. We got to Assen and Taylor pulled his leathers down and had these massive bruises and Dad was furious!
Who would win if you raced together on track?
Taylor: It depends what machinery.
Niall: It would depend what class!
Taz: Yeah if I got on a superbike and beat Taylor straight away there would be something wrong.
Niall: Luckily they’ve always been two years apart and in different classes in their careers so it’s never happened.
Taylor: We rode 150s against each other in South Africa and I was faster than Taz on the same bike but then riding pit bikes Taz is better than me.
Niall: That’s a size and shape thing
Taylor: So it basically comes down to me being the quicker one?
Niall: You are the wrong size and shape for a pit bike
Taylor: I’ve got really long legs which doesn’t help on smaller bikes. We’re better at different things. We’ve got different aspects of our riding that is better. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to racing each other but for now it’s better when we don’t as it’s better winning multiple classes as Mackenzies! It’s better to both be the best.
What would you be doing if you weren’t racing?
Taylor: That’s why I didn’t give up racing! I don’t know what else I want to do. It’d be something to do with bikes
Taz: Yeah, like you worked at MotoDirect designing suits.
Taylor: Yeah I do like designing stuff. I designed all the Buildbase bikes this year, helmets and leathers and stuff so I’d probably end up doing something like that.
Taz: I don’t know what I’d do. Something sporty I guess.
Taylor: Taz doesn’t do work. It just doesn’t come into it. Real work, anyway. He’s not quite got that concept yet.
Niall: He’s not lazy, he does everything he has to do and more
Taz: I’ve had one job before and I hated it, but I got up every morning and went and did it.
Niall: But it was a means to an ends to go racing, you knew you had to do it or you couldn’t race. He did a year at college, then a year working at a builders’ merchant. It was a full year, so he does understand the concept at work.
Taylor: I did my A levels, I was quite bright at school!
Taz: He’s more academic than me
Taylor: I got 6 A*s and As at my GCSEs, I was a right nerd. For my A levels, I started racing GPs at that point and my attendance was 32%. I was going to go to university but I decided that I was only going to get one shot at bike racing while I could go to uni at any time, so I packed it all in. I could have gone to uni if I quit, but I don’t know if I’m past that now.
I’m quite obsessed with earning money really, it must be a Scottish thing