First Person - 60 year-old trackday warrior

Phil Price is a bus-pass waving pensioner who also happens to be addicted to trackdays. he might be 60 years old but he holds his own in the fast group...

I was taught to ride by my uncle, he had a Vincent Black Shadow. He used to take me out on the back of that when I was around 14 years old. I can remember it having a great big round speedo on the headlight that I used to peer round to look at and see how fast we were going. That bike was good for nearly 150mph, we never went that fast on it but after just one ride I was hooked.

I was 16 when I got my first bike, 44 years ago in 1964. It was a BSA Goldstar. Back then they were viewed as one of the best bikes around, so I had to have one. The only problem was to get around the legal side of riding a bike that big at that age, and I had to fit a sidecar to it. What a mess! When I was a kid there were loads of us that had bikes round our flats in Bethnal Green in the East End of London. We’d spend more time taking them apart and fixing them than we would actually riding the things.

Motorbikes didn’t go like they do now, they broke down every two minutes. Back then you used to have to wait about 20 minutes for the bikes to get up to 100mph, so once you got there you knew it would be really exciting. And you fell off a lot! I’ve got a nice scar on my chin where I went over the bars on my Goldstar and into a railing.

Then I got into having a family and kids, like you do. Once I had the spare income to go back to bikes I got stuck in. I knocked around for a couple of years without a licence, I never really thought that I was breaking the law, it wasn’t like I was riding without one on purpose, I just never got round to taking the test. I bought a GPZ 600, then a 900, and that’s when I realised I should probably take my test.

I saw an ad for a trackday in 1997 and fancied having a go. I went along to Cadwell and rode on track for the first time. At the time I was on a Kawasaki ZZR 1100. I rode home like I was still on the circuit and had a massive crash, so I thought I have a bit of advanced training, so I joined the Essex Advanced Motorcycle Group. I enjoy the IAM riding and have progressed to the position of observer. The reaction from my IAM friends to the amount of track riding I do is mixed, half of them love riding on track and really support it. The other half look down their noses at track riding. I suppose everyone is allowed their own opinion, but I do trackdays whenever I can now.

I own my own business, which is going well and allows me to take time out for track riding. I think I must have done a thousand track days all in by now, but its only really been in the last three years I’ve been in the fast group. I’ve always enjoyed track riding. I just love the acceleration and the corner speed you can hold once you’re committed.

I have two track bikes now, an ’08 ZX-10R that’s the business, and I’ve had everything done to it. I’ve also got an ’04 Fireblade that has carbon wheels and loads of other trick bits. My road bike is a GSX-R1000 K7. I do ride on the road a lot and I ride ‘freely’, using a combination of the skills I have learned on track and with the IAM. Though sometimes I get a little bit carried away on the road and have to force myself to slow down. I also enjoy the odd wheelie, the ZX-10R does them easily, though I’m not great at stoppies because I worry that I might go over the top. I can do them though.

I’ve never really hurt myself, touch wood. I don’t crash that often, twice this year, once at Clearways at about 120mph and a highside out in Portugal.

I’ve also done three courses at the Nu¨rburgring, each one is 1,000km of laps of the ring. I got my time down to around eight and a half minutes. Not bad for an old boy! I’ve done a 1:46 lap around Brands GP, which would put me on the grid of an MRO 1000cc race. I’m going to Cartagena with my Kawasaki quite a lot at the moment. Steve Plater instructs, it’s perfect weather for track riding and I’ll be back here in January for another fix.

I’ve been doing a physical job all my life so I keep myself reasonably trim. I can do a trackday and come in feeling fine where guys half my age are sweating buckets. I was out recently with a young lad that does some club racing, when we came in he said ‘your bike isn’t half quick.’ When he found out I was 60 he went mad because he couldn’t keep up!

A couple of my mates asked why I wasn’t racing, but I think I’ve just left it too late. My wife is only 45 and she keeps me young, although she does ask me when I’m going to grow up and stop acting like a kid. If I got to the stage where my eye sight started playing up and I ached too much, I would think about packing it in. I’m just going to keep going with it until I can’t go anymore. In my head I feel about 20 years old when I’m out on track. It’s just great fun and reminds me why I’m alive.