Hard and fast
Over the hill. Past it.
How many times have we heard those comments passed? And truth is, in many if not most cases, it’s not so far off the mark. Knowing when to hang up your helmet and retire gracefully is something many racers struggle with.
Reality is that reaction times get longer. The appetite for risk lessens. And thrusting young turks are after your seat, wanting to make a name for themselves, regarding the older competitors as mobile chicanes to be treated with a degree of disdain.
The great thing is though that sometimes there are those Peter Pan types who don’t take things lying down. It’s an old cliche but true, that like fine wine they get better with age. Blessed with an abundance of talent, they can also draw on years of experience which they use to maximum effect to make balance out the effects of aging. And in one area of sport this seems to more evident than almost any other. On two wheels.
First off lets take the Isle of Man legend John McGuiness. At the tender age of 44, he’s lifted 23 TT titles, just three short of the equally legendary Joey Dunlop, who was 48 and still racing hard when he died in a tragic accident in Estonia in 2000.
What is it that makes the Morecambe Missle, at the age of 44, so quick? Well yes he’s fit, but not to the extreme level of say an F1 driver. But what he has is spades, and other racers like him, is the ability to process what the experts call Task Relevant Information. In other words he knows what to look for and how to handle that situation presented to him. And most importantly he does it so efficiently it causes him less stress.
Still on two wheels, but on a bike with no brakes, is another born winner who at the age of 46 has just taken his fourth Speedway World Championship. The man is Californian Greg Hancock.
Greg’s speedway career has spanned almost 40 years and started in the UK with the Dudley based Cradley Heathens. Since then he has raced for teams in Poland and Sweden as well as the Coventry Bees, Oxford Cheetahs, Reading Bulldogs and the Poole Pirates back here in the UK.
So what is the secret of his success?
“I’ve never put a timeframe on this game. I love what I am doing. As it is now, I’ll keep fighting and I am trying to find that little bit extra every year to be a little bit quicker. I can’t beat these guys on sheer aggression. I have to be a little smarter and a little quicker.”
“A little smarter and a little quicker.” Seems like it’s that ability to process Task Relevant Information better than the next man or men, who we should point out are an average age of 29 compared to Greg’s 46.
Hmmm gets you thinking doesn’t it?
Last but not least, we must remember another of our, shall we say, more mature two wheel racers. Gentlemen that we are at Torque, we won’t mention her actual age, but suffice to say she has broken the 40 barrier and just had the best season in her racing career to date. Not content to finishing third to John McGuiness in the Classic TT, she’s now taking up sidecar racing too!
Maria Costello OBE is another racer on a mission to prove age is no barrier, but rather a pathway to success.
Yet more proof if indeed proof were needed in that other old adage, it’s not what you do it’s the way that you do it.