BSB: James Ellison: 'Why I'm coming back for another year'

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At the start of the 2018 season, James Ellison said that he envisaged his campaign with the Anvil Hire TAG Racing squad to be his last in the Bennetts British Superbike championship.

However, after a disappointing season for both him and the team, the Cumbrian has decided to stick around for another year having signed a deal to join Peter Hickman in the Smiths BMW team, commuting to each race from America so he can spend more time with his family.

“When I said that 2018 would be my last year, I was expecting a proper title challenge,” Ellison told MCN. “That’s what I expected and that’s what the TAG Yamaha team expected too, but things didn’t seem to click for us after round one. We just couldn’t get any grip out of the bike.

“I didn’t want to be remembered for being someone who runs around mid-pack, so I decided if I could find the right deal I’d come back for another year, travelling from America so I could spend more time with my family. I’ve fought for the championship many times before and this year we weren’t, and I’m not happy to end like that.”

With the 2019 BSB season looking radically different, Ellison took an opportunity to get on the all-new BMW S1000RR with both hands.

“I really like the look of the new BMW, it seems that the bike isn’t as aggressive as the old one and I think that’ll suit me. A lot of the guys in the Smiths team I worked with in the past at GBmoto, and it’s important to be joining Hicky – who is a race winner. He wants someone in the team that can work with him to develop the bike and if we can push each other through the season, the results should be good.”

However, Ellison came close to not being on the grid at all in 2019 after an unexpected back injury led to him having emergency surgery in the weeks after the 2018 season concluded.

“I had a few problems with my back for a while,” he explained. “As far back as Assen I was struggling to do the most simple things like put my socks on, at one point on a race weekend I had to ring my mechanic and get him to come into the truck to help me put my socks on as I was in that much pain.

“I then crashed at Brands, got up and felt fine so I drove home that night, which probably wasn’t the wisest thing to do! After being sat down for so long, I was in agony. There was some kind of problem… I went to the chiropractor after a few days to get it checked out and part of one of my discs in my back had popped out and was blocking my nerves. My left leg from my bum to my heel was completely numb…

“My chiropractor rang my neurosurgeon there and then and sent me straight for an MRI scan, the guy said I needed an emergency operation which he couldn’t do, so sent me across to A&E saying I’d lose the use of my bladder and bowel for life if I wasn’t operated on soon! I got operated on that night, then I was in hospital the night of the op and then I drove home and spent a week lying in bed. I went into hibernation mode. I told nobody, not even my mum. The doctors told me I wouldn’t be able to do anything for three months… so the testing ban is a good thing. I’ve been able to drive and walk perfectly fine and I’ve been back in the gym so I’m definitely ahead of schedule, but it was a bit of a scary time!”

Picture: Impact Images

Oli Rushby

By Oli Rushby

Former sports reporter covering British Superbikes, World Superbikes and road racing