‘I RACED NECK-AND-NECK WITH JOEY THEN BEAT HIM’

Thir­teen-times TT podium man looks back on an amaz­ing biking up­bring­ing

Motorcycle News (UK) - - This Week -

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.

Grif­fiths’ TT tally in­cludes 13 podi­ums Four steps to YZF-R1 su­per­bike heaven

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