‘I RACED NECK-AND-NECK WITH JOEY THEN BEAT HIM’
Thirteen-times TT podium man looks back on an amazing biking upbringing
How did you first get into bikes?
My father (famous ’60s racer Selwyn Griffiths) worked in a motorcycle shop in Pontypool, South Wales, so I was around bikes from an early age.
What was the first bike you rode?
I first rode when I was about seven, although I can’t remember what the very first bike was! The first one I have any real recollection of is the Honda XR75 that I got around that time.
Did you have road bikes before you started racing?
Only little ones. I had mopeds as soon as I was old enough to be on the road and would ride those to school and college. I had a Yamaha DT50, a Suzuki TS50 and a Suzuki TS125 – it was all little two-strokes. I rode all sorts of strange stuff over the years – like a Honda CD125. Just whatever was coming into the shop really.
When did you start road racing?
In 1990, when I was about 20 years-old. I’d been around racing an awful lot and Ray Cowles, who sponsored my father, helped me get started. I never got into the whole riding too fast on the roads thing, in fact I wasn’t riding much on the roads at all at that point. I was just so used to being around racing, so decided to give it a go.
What was your greatest racing achievement?
Debuting on the roads and winning the Manx Grand Prix newcomers race in 1990 stands out. I was lucky that I had a terrific bike – a Honda RC30, courtesy of Bob Heath Visors. That was a lovely bike. The first time I won the Southern 100 on the Isle of Man in 1994 stands out too. I raced neck-andneck with Joey Dunlop over the full 12 laps and was lucky enough to end up beating him by half a wheel. That was just fantastic.
The TT win never came – does that bother you?
People raise that question an awful lot but it really doesn’t bother me. I took four Ulster Grand Prix wins and stood on the podium 13 times at the TT. It was something I enjoyed doing and I had some great results but the win just eluded me. I wouldn’t change anything though, I loved every minute. The last few years I rode there – my last year was 2006 – I was only doing a handful of meetings a year so I didn’t feel any pressure, it was just for pure enjoyment (he still scored two podiums in his final year though – Ed).
What was your role at Yamaha?
I started working in sales at Yamaha in 2003 and then went on to work on their sporting activities so was involved with Rob Mcelnea on the road race side of things. At the end of 2006 I went to Pirelli UK. I’m still racing manager for Pirelli but I do it on a contract basis as I have my bike shop on the Isle of Man to look after too.
What’s your dream bike?
The RC30 I won the Manx on was a special bike, and I really loved riding Yamaha TZ250S which were proper racing bikes. Two extremes really – a big V4 four-stroke and a little 250cc two-stroke, but I loved them both.
Do you still own bikes?
No, apart from what’s in the shop! I never owned any of the bikes I raced so I don’t even have any of those as a keepsake.
Does riding on the roads seem boring now?
I don’t know. As I get older I can see the appeal in riding big adventure bikes – touring Ireland or Scotland or heading off into Europe.
Do you miss racing?
When I’m watching the boys going out for TT practice on a summer’s evening I wish I were doing it too. I loved the old morning practices as well. Those 5.15am starts when not that many people had even bothered getting up to do it meant you could get a really clear run around the Mountain Course and there’s nothing else like it on Earth. That was just a perfect experience.