December 6 2013 Latest news:
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
When Phil Armes broke his back in a racing accident 18 years ago, he thought he would never get on a motorcycle again.
However, the Norwich man was back on a bike today in preparation for a reunion with one of the world’s most famous race courses.
The 54-year-old from Hellesdon did eight laps of Snetterton Circuit on a specially adapted motorbike after being invited to ride a solo lap of the Isle of Man TT course next week.
The former international rider will be one of 65 former Manx Grand Prix winners to ride a parade lap of the 37 ¾ mile route on Wednesday and will be the first paraplegic to complete a lap of the famous TT course.
The father-of-three, who was paralysed in a crash at the Ulser Grand Prix in 1995, returned to the track for the first time since his injury following the help of Talan Skeels-Piggins who runs The Bike Experience, a project that was set up to offer disabled riders the chance to ride solo machines.
Mr Armes said he had a mix of emotions after getting on a racing bike again and he was looking forward to returning to the Isle of Man after winning the newcomers Manx Grand Prix in 1984 and competing in seven TT races.
“I had no desire to go racing again because I had been fortunate enough to race across the world and I was 36 when I broke my back and I had no need to do it again. However, I said that if the opportunity came up to go around the Isle of Man again I would jump at the chance. In October last year I got an email inviting past winners of the Manx Grand Prix to celebrate its 90th anniversary,” he said.
The former racer got back on a bike for the first time in April as part of his training to take part in the anniversary event.
“I found it the most frustrating thing I have ever done because I could not ride a bike the way I used to. When you ride a bike you use your whole body and I only have the top bit of my body to use and the balance was all wrong. When I went back in May I got to grips with it a lot better and I was smoother and faster and I enjoyed it too much,” he said.
In a racing career that started in 1981 on a modified 250cc road machine, Mr Armes progressed through the ranks to ride in the 1988 and 1989 Formula 1 world championships. Over 15 years of racing he took part in one Manx Grand Prix and seven TTs, competing in 15 races over the iconic Isle of Man course.
He set a new standard for the 600cc production class in 1987 when he smashed the lap record. He also won the 350cc class at the Macau Grand Prix in Asia, and won numerous races across throughout the UK on various sizes of machinery from 125cc right up to 1000cc.
Mr Armes will be riding a SV650cc Suzuki next week, which has been adapted so that all the controls are on the handlebars. His feet and legs will be fastened to the foot rests and engine tank.
He added that riding the parade lap will be physically demanding. However, he was well prepared following his practice run at Snetterton today.