Motorcycling: Rymer set to ride tall

Andrew Martin on a big man in the short world of British Superbike racing
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Terry Rymer stands head and shoulders above his rivals, which is something of a disadvantage for a motorcycle racer. At 6ft 2in, walking tall in the pit lane is never a problem, but tucked behind the small protective shell of a Japanese racing machine's fairing requires an uncomfortable crouch - a Nippon tuck - that can leave limbs aching after a hard ride in the saddle.

For all that, though, Rymer - the "Lanky Londoner" - does not see his relative height as a handicap in a world of bantamweight-sized competitors. "Overall, it is a disadvantage," he conceded, "but in some cases it's an advantage. You're strong enough to move the bike around, and it helps with wind resistance on breaking. It's good for everyday life - I like being tall. But, riding a motorbike, it gives you a pain in the neck and back, literally."

Fact is, however, he is more than happy to peer above the heads of his peers and on Sunday, following the first race of this season's MCN British Superbike Championship at Donington Park, Rymer hopes to cast his elongated shadow from the highest step of the winner's podium.

Such confidence results from having landed one of two rides on the factory Team Kawasaki ZX-7RR. A good, experienced rider on a capable machine amounts to a heap of pluses where winning margins and lap times are often separated by the width of a tyre.

Last season Rymer, the 1992 World Endurance champion, proved he was capable of competing with the best. Having impressed on a works Ducati in World Superbikes, he stood in for the injured Daryl Beattie, landing a 500cc grand prix ride on the Lucky Strike Suzuki.

Rymer readily admits that he found the awesome two-wheeled bronco something of a handful, but his performances made those who had not already sighted Rymer's conspicuous frame and talent take notice.

"Riding 500s you have to be very fit and know exactly what you are doing," he said, "and be disciplined in mind and body. Also it taught me about throttle control. With that power underneath your right wrist - 190bhp and 200mph plus - one tiny mistake (which I found out a couple of times) and it's not a very pleasant experience, because when 500s flick you off they really flick you hard. I was good for my experience and I'm riding better than I've ever ridden now."

Rymer has expectations of a smoother ride in the British Championship, where he faces a formidable challenge from the reigning champion, Niall Mackenzie, on the Cadbury's Boost Yamaha and the Reve Ducati pairing of John Reynolds and Steve Hislop.

Rymer's confidence is further fortified by some blistering test times and a third place in last Sunday's "shakedown race", the Race of the Year at Mallory Park.

That the series has captured the public's imagination is clear from the BBC's decision to extend its coverage of the event and that last season some 140,000 spectators saw the action live.

"This year I was offered a ride by Suzuki to do the world endurances and testing on the 500s," Rymer added, "but I chose to do the British Championship with Kawasaki because it's going to be bigger and bigger. I'd rather stay in the UK and win races here and keep my profile high than race World Superbikes with an uncompetitive machine, finishing 12ths, 13ths and 14ths. You're certainly not doing yourself justice and not enjoy it either. I want to enjoy my racing. When I do that I can win."