‘I REMIND THEM HOW FAST I WAS’
AT HOME WITH THE MACKENZIES
Twenty years ago, at the age of 35, former 500cc GP racer Niall Mackenzie stormed to his first of three British Superbike titles. Now, two decades on, the Mackenzie name is once again popping the champagne on the British championship podium.
Niall might have retired from racing 16 years ago, but a race weekend has never been busier for the 55-year-old with both of his sons now competing at the top of their game.
Tarran (21) and Taylor (23) took the paddock by storm this year as they each became champions in their respective classes when, it’s fair to say, nobody was expecting it.
Taylor has competed in 125GPS, British Supersport and British Superbikes, but with limited success. This year, he dominated the Superstock 1000 class, beating road racing star Ian Hutchinson to the title.
While Tarran’s career has been shorter, it has been more successful, with the younger Mackenzie having fought in the British Motostar and Superstock 600 classes. However, to take victory in his rookie British Supersport season was nothing short of remarkable.
We sat down with the Mackenzies at their Derbyshire home to delve into just what makes the three of them so quick. So, you’ve both won national championships this year. Is being fast on a motorcycle a genetic trait? Taylor: I think it has to be. There are definitely different parts of dad in both of us. I mean, Taz has a terrible riding style, he looks just like dad on a bike! Tarran: Yeah, people will always say, ‘You look so much like your dad on the bike’ and I’ll respond with, ‘Yeah, it’s not a f**king good thing, he’s got a crap riding style!’ Joking aside, though, there’s definitely something passed on. Niall: I’m not so sure about genetics. Mcwilliams’ lads aren’t bothered about racing and Neil Hodgson is always saying how his little boy hasn’t got any interest in the sport. My kids grew up in the paddock, they were in the motorhome when I was racing so they know how it works. Tarran: We didn’t start until quite late. Bike racing was just another hobby to us. Niall: I remember Scott Redding winning the British GP on a 125. I Googled him and he’d been racing 10 years! I
‘If they didn’t push themselves I’d say they shouldn’t be going racing’ NIALL MACKENZIE
thought we may as well not bother with these boys! But we kind of did our own little thing; they were still young when we started and they did all right.
Does your dad push you a lot? Niall: They push themselves. If they didn’t, I’d have a quiet word, but if they weren’t pushing themselves I’d say we shouldn’t be doing this. Tarran: He used to tell us that Ron Haslam would make Leon clean his leathers and pack the van to make sure he was interested enough to do it. He was never going to force us into this. Taylor: You can’t not be self-motivated in this game. If you need someone to tell you to do it, it’s not going to happen. Tarran: I think that’s why we get on so well, because dad doesn’t push us. Niall: Taylor had a shit season last year, but one morning I looked out the front at 7am and saw someone running past, and realised it was him. Things like that show me how dedicated they are. I don’t need to push them any harder.
You’re all quite competitive, though, right? Who is the most competitive? Taylor: Me. Tarran: No I am! Taylor: We’re both pretty competitive really; it’s dad’s fault! He used to race us at everything as kids, that’s how he’d make us do anything. He’d time us to get a biscuit from the kitchen or tidy our bedrooms. Niall: Oddly, they’re not that competi- tive with each other, just their rivals. Taylor: The Lowes twins are ultracompetitive with each other, they don’t like getting beaten at anything. But for me, I just don’t like getting beaten at the things that matter. Niall: Foggy was like that. He’d be proper mad if he was beaten at pool. I could definitely switch off from that. I didn’t need to win those things. But anything I thought I should be good at, whether it was karting or riding bikes, then I’d be upset if I wasn’t on top.
Is there any pressure on you boys because you’re Niall Mackenzie’s sons? Taz: We don’t even rate dad, we’ve seen him ride in the garden!
Taylor: Stupid thing is we don’t know the Niall Mackenzie who used to race. Old blokes come up dribbling all over him and we’re like, ‘Er, that’s my dad…’ Niall: I do try to remind them how fast I was... Tarran: At the end of the day he’s like anyone else’s dad. You still take the mick and you’re still embarrassed by what he does. If you’ve got a racing family, that’s where it’s different. He can point out what we’re doing right or wrong.
Do the three of you train together? Tarran: Yeah, we’ve a track in the back garden. Dad likes to pretend he’s better than us. Taylor: To be fair, we’ve got much better at passing people when racing because to pass dad out in the garden is the hardest thing. He’s pretty wide! Niall: They train together; I take part… Tarran: If we’re on holiday and go on a run, dad will come with us. He thinks he’s not fit but he’s doing all right.
Who is the quickest in the garden? Taylor: It generally depends on the day, but definitely me! Tarran: Dad thinks he’s the man but he’s not always. The thing is, we’re fearless out there. Dad would rather sleep in his own bed than a hospital bed. Taylor: We have had some serious crashes in the garden. The week before Assen in 2014, I crashed and Taz hit me flat-out in third gear and ran over my neck. He crashed, too. He reckoned he’d broken his neck, we were both laid there. Mum was doing the dishes and it all went quiet so she thought she had better come out and check we were OK. Tarran: We used to ride as hard as we could at each other and barge each other out of the way but we had to stop that. We got to Assen and Taylor pulled his leathers down and had these massive bruises; dad was furious!
Who would win if you raced together on track? Niall: It would depend on what class! Tarran: Yeah if I got on a superbike and beat Taylor straight away there would be something wrong. Niall: Luckily they’ve always been two years apart and in different classes in their careers so it’s never happened. Taylor: We rode 150s against each other in South Africa and I was faster than Taz on the same bike. But Taz is better at riding pit bikes than me. Niall: That’s a size and shape thing. Taylor: I’ve got really long legs which doesn’t help on smaller bikes. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to racing each other but for now it’s better we don’t, as it’s better winning multiple classes as Mackenzies!
What would you be doing if you weren’t racing? Taylor: That’s why I didn’t give up racing! I don’t know what else I’d do. Tarran: You used to design race suits... Taylor: Yeah, I do like designing stuff. I designed all the Buildbase bikes, helmets and leathers this year, so I’d probably do something like that. Tarran: I don’t know what I’d do. Something sporty I guess... Taylor: Taz doesn’t do real work. He’s not quite grasped that concept yet. Tarran: I had a job before and I hated it, but I got up every morning and did it. Niall: It was a means to an end - to go racing. You knew you had to do it or you couldn’t race. He did a year at college, then a year at a builders’ merchant, so he understands the concept of work. Taylor: I did my A-levels, I was quite bright at school! Tarran: He’s more academic than me. Taylor: I got 6 A*s and As at my GCSES, I was a right nerd. I started racing GPS when I was doing my A-levels; my attendance was 32%. I was going to go to university but I decided I was only going to get one shot at bike racing and I could go to uni at any time, so I packed it all in. But I’m quite obsessed with earning money now – it must be a Scottish thing...
‘Passing dad in the garden is good practice as he is so wide!’ TAYLOR MACKENZIE
Our man asks: “So, who’s really the quickest?”
TAYLOR MACKENZIE Niall’s eldest son blitzed this year’s Brtish Superstock 1000 series.
Taylor and Taz show no mercy on their garden track. Niall (behind) is a bit more careful The elder Mackenzie was a BSB podium season ticket-holder in the 1990s Niall’s first title was won 20 years ago
TARRAN MACKENZIE 21-year-old ‘ Taz’ had a golden year in 2016, taking the British Supersport title.