My terror on the racetrack

Guy Adams rides behind a top motorcycle racer and just manages to keep hold of his last meal

The basic premise is this: you're perched on top of a 1,000cc engine (and not very much else) behind a leather-clad nutcase who makes a living riding two-wheelers very, very fast. He's got five minutes to introduce you to his white-knuckle world, and has been instructed to scare you silly. Anyone of a nervous disposition simply doesn't stand a chance.

My pilot is called James Haydon, he's 30 years old, competes with the Rizla Suzuki team, and boasts a list of medical complaints like a junior doctor's training manual. In recent years, Haydon has broke his ankle, his left wrist twice, right wrist three times, collar-bone, thumb, fingers twice, knuckle (ouch!) and several ribs. Now my life is to be placed in his patched-up hands, on the lethal bends of Castle Combe. If that wasn't terrifying enough, we've arrived in the pit-lane in time to see an over-zealous rider being bought home in the back of an ambulance.

But surviving a superbike journey requires little in the way of technical ability. The passenger's job is to wrap arms around the driver's waist (in the manliest fashion possible), and behave like a sack of spuds. Sudden movements are discouraged, since they upset the delicate balance of these machines, with obvious and unthinkable consequences.

Whoosh! Down goes Haydon's right wrist, off goes the Suzuki, and I'm rocked back in the saddle like someone's smacked me in the face. They weren't joking when they said it'd be quick: heading down the straight, I open my eyes for the first time, only for a gust of wind to nearly take my head off. I'm terrified, and we haven't even reached the first bend.

It doesn't take long arriving, though. Half a second after hitting top speed (around 160mph, since you ask), we're back at a sedate 80 for the first of Castle Combe's many sharp right-handers. Braking at this sort of speed throws my backside clear of my seat and near-as-dammit over the handlebars. Coming round each corner, our knees graze concrete. We're leaning at an absurd angle and every moment I expect this fragile relationship with terra firma to come to a messy end. Finally, as we accelerate into each straight Haydon pulls a wheelie and I'm on the verge of being reunited with lunch.

Haydon competes in the British Superbike championship, a thrilling two-wheeled version of touring cars. When he and his chums aren't terrifying journalists, they travel the UK competing on largely the sort of machines that you or I could buy from a normal garage. Their souped-up versions do battle at 13 different meetings across the country each summer.

Organisers claim their sport is said to be undergoing something of a renaissance - grotty Hell's Angels being replaced by respectable middle-class types and that kind of guff - and tattoos and beards were certainly outnumbered, when I visited earlier in the year, by deckchairs and picnic hampers. The racing itself is decidedly edgy. In contrast to Formula One, or other sterile, tactical, car races, motorcycles still overtake each other. Mistakes get made, and, since it is raining, messy accidents abound.

At the sharp end of Castle Combe, it takes a couple of two-minute laps for my brain to believe that I might survive this hair-raising interlude to daily life. Soon I start to enjoy myself, and to feel a certain affinity with the macho professionals I had witnessed breathlessly some weeks previously.

As we reach the finish, I throw off my helmet, with a smile as wide as a chequered flag, and thank Haydon for giving the machine such a testing ride. And then reality bites: he quietly admits to have "only given it about 65 per cent of full poke". In a race he'll crank it up to 180mph and throw the machine around "properly". Now that really would have reunited me with lunch.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Business Analyst - 12 Month FTC - Entry Level

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Analyst is required ...

    Recruitment Genius: Chefs - All Levels

    £16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To succeed, you will need to ha...

    Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Engineer

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an award winni...

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive & Customer Service - Call Centre Jobs!

    £7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

    Day In a Page

    Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

    Tribal gathering

    Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

    A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
    Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

    Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

    Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
    Srebrenica 20 years after the genocide: Why the survivors need closure

    Bosnia's genocide, 20 years on

    No-one is admitting where the bodies are buried - literally and metaphorically
    How Comic-Con can make or break a movie: From Batman vs Superman to Star Wars: Episode VII

    Power of the geek Gods

    Each year at Comic-Con in San Diego, Hollywood bosses nervously present blockbusters to the hallowed crowd. It can make or break a movie
    What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?

    Perfect match

    What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?
    10 best trays

    Get carried away with 10 best trays

    Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
    Wimbledon 2015: Team Murray firing on all cylinders for SW19 title assault

    Team Murray firing on all cylinders for title assault

    Coaches Amélie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman aiming to make Scot Wimbledon champion again
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!
    Ashes 2015: Angus Fraser's top 10 moments from previous series'

    Angus Fraser's top 10 Ashes moments

    He played in five series against Australia and covered more as a newspaper correspondent. From Waugh to Warne and Hick to Headley, here are his highlights
    Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

    The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
    How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

    Heavy weather

    What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
    World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

    World Bodypainting Festival 2015

    Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
    alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

    Don't call us nerds

    Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high