VIDEO: A British Superbikes experience to really cling on to
It took until being perched on the back of Tommy Hill's Swan Yamaha for our sports writer Michael Bailey to realise exactly what he had said yes to…
There was never a question my past pillion experience – consisting of one central London jaunt on the back of a Lambretta and a modest trip to Salhouse via a Vespa – was going to be much of a guide.
But it didn't matter. The invitation to take in a lap or two behind British Superbike star Tommy Hill is something you do not pass up, whether you are relying on blind faith or not. I did keep my eyes open – the faith was still a necessity.
The leathers hugged a little too tightly in some places, but strangely they felt cool enough to carry off. For 20 minutes, at least.
Not that I felt cool. Anything but. No doubt, the waiting crew saw that too. As the sun beamed down and the track warmed up, Hill reassured with some basic rules. Right arm round him, left arm on the fuel tank.
You may also want to watch:
One: push away when he braked – which was a lot, and excruciatingly hard. It explains the fact my left shoulder has not stopped shaking since.
Two: cling on when he flew – which was spine-tingling speed like nothing you get from four wheels.
- 1 Drink driver arrested after crashing into two trees in Norwich
- 2 Jack-knifed lorry shuts A148 as police issue ice warning
- 3 Yellow weather warning for snow in place across region
- 4 Norwich hairdresser, former boxer and bodybuilder, dies from Covid
- 5 9 of Norfolk's most famous blue plaques
- 6 Map reveals the most serious crashes on the NDR since it fully opened
- 7 Atlantis Tower up for sale after owner signs ‘outrageous’ loan deal
- 8 The secrets and scandals of a former Norwich hotel
- 9 Covid rates continue to fall across Norfolk, especially in Norwich
- 10 It's 'a long, long way' until lockdown restrictions are lifted - Hancock
That was possibly the greatest feeling. The dancing from side to side; the bike clearly wanting to take-off every time Hill opened his throttle – sending the 170 brake horsepower road version of his wasp-like Yamaha YZF-R1 through 150mph down the new Bentley Straight.
And with me perched two-feet above the ground, imagining I resembled a flag about to be ripped from its pole by a Force 10 gale.
After two corners my thighs were burning with the strain. One trip down the start/finish Senna Straight later and they were competing with the rest of my body.
The physical exertion was colossal – and I was only a passenger. For two laps. On Sunday, two 17-lap trips await the British Superbikes field; that earns respect.
There was even an early Snetterton crowd out to see Hill and his jiggling pillion. All I could imagine was a little YouTube number if my arms gave way, which didn't feel beyond the realms of possibility.
But clung on, I did. And love it, I did. Not that I have stopped shaking – and not in a Shane 'Shakey' Byrne style, either.
'Did I scare you?' asked Hill with more than a hope for a 'yes' in response – which, of course, he got.
Fortunately Hill is currently a man with British Superbikes momentum – which certainly helped with any trust issues.
The likeable 26-year-old dominated the previous round at Knockhill and, thankfully, was more worried about a lack of time on the new Snetterton 300 circuit than seeing his good form knocked on its head with a ropey Friday morning ride.
'Unfortunately we only had one session here when we tested at the beginning of the season,' said Hill.
'Everyone else had at least a full day's testing, so we are a little bit on the back foot but by the end of practice we'll have found our set-up and can concentrate on qualifying.
'I like the track and the idea is not to get too frustrated with it. It's a new track for me and you want to push hard. We have come from two race wins at Knockhill, two lap records and you want to be on the top step again.
'I just need to find my feet and go from there – but what did help was doing the pillion laps with you, definitely.'
I was happy to be of service – if still shaking because of it.
Despite how uncomfortable it must have been to have a petrified journalist clinging on for dear life behind him, Hill's assertion the extra laps would do him good seemed to ring true come the day's second practice session, where the Swan Yamaha rider led John Hopkins by barely 0.05 seconds heading into Saturday's three qualifying sessions.
'The new track is mega,' said Hill. 'There are up and downs, tight corners, flying corners and the new Snetterton 300 has got a bit of everything.
'I remember walking around the track first of all and saying this is a third or fourth gear corner, and it is actually second gear – it's actually tighter than you think.
'It's a pretty cool track though. It's about one minute 50 seconds, so quite a long lap.
'It will be a long race on Sunday and we'll go from there, but so far I am really enjoying it.'