Kelly's book has taught me that you have to draw the line somewhere, don’t give up and stand by what you believe in. There are so many tales that it could have been double its size. Some of them were not suitable for printing like the one involving an ex-World Champion’s foreskin!
The most exciting rider I ever saw was Kelly Moran. He was so spectacular, yet graceful, so clever, but also frustratingly laid-back and he really was super-talented. Perhaps more importantly, he possessed a magical personality. There have been many exciting riders in the sport, like Peter Collins, Jan O. Pedersen, Shawn Moran, but none of them were quite like Kelly. Erik Stenlund was always good entertainment but was pretty chaotic on the bike and recently Rune Holta was a rider who kept you guessing with regard to what would happen next. Right now I think Peter Kildemand is one of the most exciting and spectacular riders out there.
1984 was one of Kelly’s best seasons and arguably his last great year. He was fourth in the World Championship again that year when he wasn’t riding in the British League. One can only speculate about what might have been if he did sharpen himself up by having a spell in British racing. He was well-backed, had good support around him and I believe it was his best chance. Indeed, he had a big say in the destiny of the crown that year.
I wish I had a pound for every time someone says that Kelly ‘wasted his talent’. Sure he could have achieved more, but wasted? Three World Finals, fourth three times, how many riders never get to compete for a world title? If he stayed in America and never ventured outside of California to race then maybe you could say that. If we’re going down that route you could say that about everyone that didn’t win a world championship and could have and should have.
My favourite research memory was interviewing Danny Becker. I had heard a lot about him and he was battling cancer at the time and I don’t know whether it was the meds he was on, but he was giggling all the time. What a fabulous guy though, he was very entertaining. Kelly and Danny were like two peas in a pod. Sadly he died about a year after I spoke to him but I felt privileged to have spent some time with him.
The best time to create is the twilight hours and late at night. Music also helps.
Don’t get me started on the double points tactical, joker (how appropriate) rule which is absolutely ridiculous. It ruins the credibility of the sport.
The best rider of all time is probably Ivan Mauger. That’s a tough one because I think Tony Rickardsson had more talent but the more I hear about Ivan I think he has the edge because he was so, so meticulous. I can’t comment on Ove Fundin because he was before my time, but you’d have to say he’s in contention for that place as well and there are plenty from that period who would say Ove was the best.
Speedway in the 1970s and ‘80s was the best because there was so much talent around. The standard was very high indeed. Having said that, I saw some fantastic meetings in the Grand Prix during the early noughties, and also some jaw-dropping stuff in the World Cup during that time as well. At the end of the day, those days are gone, they’re not coming back, so we have to make the most of what we have now. It can still be a great sport.
My favourite motor racing book is Wayne Rainey, His Own Story by Michael Scott. That started it for me, it was so well-written; it was entertaining, detailed and moving. I’d grown up reading Scott in Motor Cycle News among others. I have recently read an old novel by James A. Michener, Centennial, it was a big book but it opened my eyes because it was stunningly good.
My biggest influences have been people like Arthur Conan Doyle who wrote the Sherlock Holmes stories and an English teacher I had for one term, Mr Lindsay who gave me a life-long appreciation of Samuel Taylor-Coleridge; journalists like Mick Wall, Michael Scott and I always used to read Ross Benson too. John Chaplin has gone out of his way to be helpful. I’ll always be very grateful to John and we keep in touch. Music of all types have influenced me but someone like Bob Seger who can tell you a story in a song based around the ring on a character’s finger, now that’s really clever and I’ve always found Tony Clarkin’s (of British band, Magnum) lyrics to be inspirational. And then you get people like Iron Maiden who have plundered some of the great stories of our time and retold them in an exciting and loud style, The Trooper for example. For pure enjoyment though, there aren’t many better than AC/DC, especially the Bon Scott era.
What most don’t know about me is I really enjoy the Six Nations and the World Cup rugby union tournaments. Last season’s Six Nations games were so intense and competitive. One of my favourite sporting memories is watching England win the 2003 World Cup and dancing around the room with my mother after Jonny Wilkinson’s sweet drop goal had clinched it.
The person I’d most like to meet is Robbie Coltrane. He made a show called, Coltrane’s Planes and Automobiles, it was very informative and amusing. If you were an apprentice under his mechanical skills, you’d have to be brain dead not to learn. I admire his style and I’ll never forget that show he did when he was driving across America in a Cadillac and he got pulled up by the police and he turned to the camera and said, “Here we go boys, don’t mention Vietnam!”
I collect art depicting the American Wild West, in particular the fur trapping era and the Indians. It was a simple, but adventurous time. I just find some of those images of big mountains, wide open spaces relaxing, yet they often hold a story. I have one or two valuable pictures, but usually the cost is out my league, I have to make do with prints and collected works in books. People like Paul Calle, Charles M Russell, Frank C. McCarthy, Howard Terpning, their originals run into hundreds of thousands of dollars, or more. An artist I particularly like is John Peterson. I have one of his works here on my wall and another for something special I’m doing. There is a painting by Charles M Russell called When the Land Belonged to God, there is something enchanting and Biblical about it. One day I’d like to have a decent print of that on my wall. I admire anyone who can draw and paint, that can re-create familiar, and unfamiliar scenes, that’s true talent.
Books are the best because they’re timeless. That book on your shelf will work for the rest of your life – and beyond - no matter what trends come and go. It won’t be outdated or need an upgrade, it doesn’t need recharging, all you have to do is open it and turn the page and you’re into a new world. I know a lot of people are using Kindle – or Kindling as I call it – but how long will it be before you’ll have to update it, or it’s replaced by new technology? And art books on a piece of plastic, do me a favour! How can that do paintings and photos justice?
My one piece of advice would be don’t let anyone tell you, that you can’t do it or talk you down. An old Vaquero saying is “a critic is a legless man who teaches running.”