BIG INTERVIEW: Motorsport ace Andy Herd’s Isle of Man TT dream
Craig Salmon talks to Preston motorbike ace Andy Herd, who is targeting a future place at the prestigious TT Races in the Isle of Man.
The poetic old adage goes that ‘it’s never too late to fulfil your dreams’ – and the famous old saying certainly resonates with Preston motorbiker Andy Herd.
Having never raced on two wheels prior to his 30th birthday, the former Fulwood High School pupil decided in 2015 that it was now or never if he was ever to try his luck on the competitive track.
Fast forward six years, Herd – now aged 38 – has taken the club racing scene by storm over the past year.
Having dipped his toe in the sport by attending track days and meetings, Herd was encouraged by his fellow competitors and spectators to enter some races.
With a small team around him, he managed to complete a full season in the No Limits Club Championship this year.
And remarkably, he achieved an amazing second-place finish overall after some spectacular results at places such Donington Park and Mallory Park.
There have been some spectacular crashes during the process but it has not deterred Herd who has set his sights on competing at the Manx GP event in the Isle of Man next year.
Ultimately, his long-term aim is to race the island’s iconic and world renowned TT Races, which take place every year at the end May and start of June.
Herd admits he still has to pinch himself when he reflects on the success he has managed to accomplish at an age where most other sportsmen and women are beginning to wind down.
“I started racing three years ago and I only did a few races and didn’t really have good results,” said Herd, who is a gas engineer, and runs a business called Andy The Gasman.
“But the thing was I really enjoyed it.
“So last year I did a few more races but only what I could afford and managed to have some reasonable results. So I decided for 2021, I would commit to a full championship.
“I’ve had a really brilliant year, had some great results and raced against and beaten some top names in motorbike racing in this country which is something I never thought I would be able to do.”
While he can revel in some of his performances, Herd revealed that it has also taken a lot of blood, sweat, tears and no shortage of drama to get to where he has.
“The first round of the season was pretty dramatic at Donington Park,” said Herd. “I went out for practice at the start of the weekend and my engine blew up.
“I then drove back to Preston, returned to Donington Park with a new engine and through the night, myself and my friend fitted a new engine on the bike which was less powerful.
“But I ended up pulling up in third spot in every race across the weekend so that was pretty memorable.
“At Oulton Park, I walked away from a crash – I went straight into a tyre wall at 100mph.
“I had to jump off the bike so I was pretty lucky to walk away from that in one piece.
“Results-wise, I took my first overall win at Mallory Park.
“The final round of the Championship at Cadwell Park last weekend, I got a couple of thirds, a second and collected enough points to nail down that second spot over the course of the season.”
Having enjoyed such an outstanding first full season of racing, Herd – whose love of motorbikes stems from his childhood – has turned his attention to what he could realistically target next.
A huge fan of road racing, he would dearly love to compete at the Isle of Man next year, although he is eyeing up other events too.
“I have got it in my head to do some road racing next year,” said Herd, who now lives in Garstang .
“Everybody associates road racing with the Isle of Man but there are some other good races elsewhere.
“Northern Ireland have some brilliant road races and I plan to go over there.
“But ultimately I want to go over to the Isle of Man and do the TT circuit – that is the end goal really. I have been over to the TT Races to watch every year.
“I have checked out the Manx GP which is basically the TT circuit but without the factory sponsored teams.
“It’s full of riders like myself who are funding it off their own back.
“If you want to try to get to the TTs, the Manx is where you want to start.
“That way you get the laps in, get your experience and then it puts you in a good position for the TTs.
“In the back of my mind, I would love to win the Newcomers Trophy when I go to the Manx. It’s no secret that is what I am aiming for.
“If I can do that then the plan is to keep going and if funds allow, try to get to the main event – the TT Races.”
The Isle of Man has long held a notorious reputation with many riders perishing or being seriously injured in crashes while racing around the island’s terrain.
Since the inaugural race in 1907, there have been more than 250 deaths on the race course. In 2016 alone, five riders died during practice and race weeks.
With a wife Samantha and two children Evony (12) and eight-year-old Amaya to think about, Herd is well aware of the island’s dangers.
“I fully understand the dangers but I tend not to think about them,” said Herd, who rides a Kawasaki 650cc Supertwin. “My wife knows about the dangers but I think you can go through life regretting some of the things you don’t do.
“I think if I don’t try to do the Isle of Man, it will be something which will bother me to my grave.
“I just feel like I have got to go there now and do it.”
Talking of regret, does the latecomer to motorbike racing wish he had begun the sport at a much earlier age?
“I have always been keen on the sport but when I was younger my family just could not afford for me do it,” he said.
“There is a little bit of regret that I didn’t start younger because you never know what could have happened.
“But I do feel grateful now that I have got to a position where I can have a go even if I am quite late to the party. I am one of the older lads on the grid but I am still able to compete and do well.”
While the ship has probably sailed in terms of competing at the British Superbikes Championship, Herd believes the TT Races could be his route to stardom within the sport.
He has pointed to 49-year-old legendary rider Morecambe’s John McGuinness of what can be achieved by someone who has reached veteran status.
“I never thought I would get the results that I have had because of my age,” he said. “I thought I would just get blitzed by the young lads and that I would be just be in it for a good time.
“I don’t think British Superbikes would be interested in signing up someone who is nearly 40-years-old but road racing is a realistic aim for me to do well.
“You look at people like John McGuinness – he’s nearly 50-years-old – and is still among the best riders.
“I have got more than a decade before I get to that age so it’s exciting what could happen.”