Watch a pre-F1 Damon Hill Racing a Yamaha RD350 in the Pro-Am

Before his F1 championship-winning days, Damon Hill had his heart set on two-wheeled motorcycle sport, racing in the Yamaha Pro-Am in the 80s

Damon Hill

FEW people realise that before his days pounding the Grand Prix circuits of the F1 championship, Damon Hill was actually a very competent motorcycle racer. Taking on the likes of Niall McKenzie in the Yamaha Pro-Am championship in the 80s.

As this video shows, Damon’s heart was set on being a motorcycle racer and not an F1 champion like his father. He spent his twenties racing against both pro-racers and enthusiastic amateurs in the iconic Pro-Am races.

The events were a unique idea in motorcycle racing, then and now. Take a grid of identical Yamaha RD350LCs, a large pot of prize money and broadcast the whole thing on ITV’s World Of Sport TV show. None of the riders knew which bike they were going to be riding at the event, they’d literally pick the key to the bike out of a hat before the race!

With a field of young riders, looking to forge a racing career, big prize money and the chance of being on TV, the competition was fierce. Stories of kill-switches getting flicked off by competitors on the grid and kicking out at your rivals were common. And a last lap, last corner, pile up an almost certainty!

Today the Pro-Am has seen a brief resurgence after Bennetts, IDP Moto and Yamaha teamed up in 2016 to re-launch the series at the British round of the MotoGP at Silverstone. With old faces and new on hand at the rain-soaked event, it was eventually MotoGP and BEB legend Niall McKenzie who took the spoils.