Terry, originally from Barnhurst in Kent, began racing in 1984 at the tender age of 17, within a year he had set the club scene alight taking 147 wins from 152 starts in the hot bed of the British Motorcycle Racing Club (or BEMSEE as it is more affectionately known). In 1989 came a much-coveted first win in World Superbikes while the following season saw him crowned British Superbike champion. He remained at the top on the racing scene, both domestic and global, for a good while, winning the 1993 European Superbike Championship, test riding for the Suzuki GP team in 95 and racing in half a dozen Grand Prix while standing in for injured Darrel Beattie during 1996. While doing all of this in the public gaze Terry was also making his mark in the not so popular world of endurance racing, taking the world title in this difficult genre in 1992 and 1999, the year he chose to retired from professional bike racing as World Champion. He has won the prestigious Bol d’Or race on 4 occasions and the Le Mans race twice, before heading off for a three year sojourn into GT car and truck racing beginning in 2000, taking wins on both four, and six-wheels to add to his impressive two-wheeled exploits.
Chris Pearson catches up with “our Tel” and finds out what this likeable character is up to these days
You shot through the ranks in double quick time to take a place in the international scene this rarely happens in modern day UK racing, do you have any idea how we can get young British riders onto the world scene?
Its tough for youngsters now, so many teams want money to race for them its getting silly, the days of throwing a bike in the back of your van and challenging for top five places in British championships seems to be long gone. I must say the Dorna Academy is a great idea it brings youngsters on to GP racing, I guess if a rider is truly exceptional he should eventually shine through.
Has your height (Terry is 6’2”) ever been a problem?
It’s always been a problem, I think that I could have done better in my career if I was the usual Race Dwarf, but I can’t complain, I had a decent and lengthy career at the very highest of levels, anyway I blame my dad because he is 6’4”.
You have ridden with some of the all time greats during your career, even partnering many of them in teams or endurance racing as well as competing in the legendary Suzuka 8 hour race in Japan. Who, with your unique grandstand view on the proceedings, due you rate as the very best?
Several really, Eddie Lawson, Scott Russell, Mick Doohan and of course, Valentino are the riders who have most made a lasting impression during my career. All have been just that little bit above the norm for a variety of reasons unique to each, a mix of sheer talent, dedication and bloody genius.
You have ridden a vast array of top-flight machinery from factory GP and Formula machines to BSB and World Endurance bikes. Which with of hindsight would you rank is the best and worst of these.
The Lucky Strike Suzuki 500 has to be the pinnacle of pure racing motorcycle, because it was so hard to get the best out of it and it would spit you into space if you got it wrong but get it right and the huge rush of adrenaline was like no other and not at all like the pansy four stroke GP bikes of today. Worst bike my Raleigh Grifter when I was a lad because it kept snapping its front forks when I jumped over ramps.
What is you greatest racing memory?
Obviously, from such a long career I have lots of great memories but what stands out most is my first WSB win back in 1989, and almost winning the Suzuka 8hr in 1994 when I lost by half a wheel to the Factory Honda RC45 ridden by Doug Polen and Aaron Slight. I partnered Scott Russell on a Kawasaki ZX7-R that year and it was one of the closest finishes ever in the history of the event.
What do you do with your time these days?
In my spare time I help a young rider, Danny Kent, he is a real little star in the making, he rides 125cc and is just 14 years old. I also work with Shane Byrne who is riding with GSE next year and I like to cycle a bit. Of course I love to spend time with my three lovely daughters.
Do you have a road bike or do track days?
I have an Aprillia Mille. I do the odd track day but unless I ride with my mates or I have a bike to test I tend not to track day too much. My Girlfriend Donna pesters me to go out on the Mille all of the time she loves riding pillion (she must be crazy).
I recent times since retiring from the sport you have become gainfully involved in motorcycle retail particularly in the clothing sector, how is this work going?
I have worked with Motodirect now for 2 years, it’s a fast growing Motorcycle Distributor that has a very strong Portfolio of products, AGV helmets, Arlen Ness, RST and Berik leathers to name just a few, and it is, quite unusually, a company of bike riders that are in tune with motorcyclists’ requirements. This is, I believe, what separates us from the other distributors in the country, the fact is, we promote, personally develop and have faith in, what we sell.
Does your stunning race career help you on a day-to-day basis as you visit dealers with your wares.
I think the major thing that I have to do is to gain my clients trust to work for Motodirect and the dealers, whatever my background has been is irrelevant in this respect, it’s only the older people that remember my race career anyway (laughs).
How different a discipline is endurance racing?
In one word, relentless, it’s bloody tough, if you are out front then you have to ride the whole race like a short circuit dash and hope that you have pulled away enough to have a bit of a rest for the last couple of hours. In complete contrast, if you are at the back it’s a great way to give yourself blisters and pain but it’s a lot of fun.
You do a lot of driving now in your work, what music is on the CD player?
I love the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, and The Who, but I like most music.
Do you/did you find it hard being a nice guy off the bike and a tough one on it?
Not at all it’s the way I am, I’m guessing it’s my alter ego once the helmet is on and the flag drops.
Do you have a favourite track and if so why?
Spa Francorchamps because it’s challenging, fast and dangerous, there is no other place quite like it. It’s a real riders dream, technically demanding and totally unforgiving and yet, mega rewarding when you get it right, I never get bored of riding around that place.
The switch to truck racing must have been a bit of a shock, what is the biggest difference and how did you cope?
I raced both 600-horsepower GT cars and 2000-hp trucks, the biggest difference between racing two four or six wheels is, in short, the race lines, understanding the extra inertia of a car and truck not overdriving (as so many bike racers tend to do) and being able to adapt to a vehicle which not everybody seems to be able to do. I was lucky enough to adapt to these different disciplines.