The Twilight Zone – Steve Hislop

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The 2012 Isle of Man TT starts this weekend and as a tribute to Norton’s return to the Island after an almost 20 year absence, here is an article I wrote many years ago for MCN Sport about the British company’s last TT win and possibly the greatest race to take place around the motorcycle racing’s most spectacular course.

The race saw Steve Hislop, riding the quirky Norton rotary machine, race neck-to-neck with Carl Fogarty, mounted on a more conventional Yamaha OW-01 for the full six lap race. Both had a point to prove after losing their Honda rides the previous season and it was Hizzy who took the win in the most incredible circumstances.

This interview was my contribution to a feature called the Twilight Zone, in which top racers talked about the near spiritual experiences they felt as they rode right on the limit. Other racers featured included American 500cc Grand Prix stars Wayne Rainey and Kenny Roberts and it remains memorable to me, if only because of Steve’s lucidity as he describes every bend and bump.

I always enjoyed interviewing Hizzy. He was at his best in British Superbikes at the time I worked in the championship. He reminded me a lot of my Dad; very Scottish and wearing his emotions for all to see. When things were good for Steve he was the happiest person in the world, when they were not good he came across as being against everyone in the world. And when he was happy, he was fast. Very, very fast indeed.

While I tend not to get emotionally involved with racers, Steve Hislop left me with more memories than anyone else. His superpole lap at Donington Park to set pole for the world superbike round in 2001 was impressive, but it was the British superbike pole at the same venue when he made it his personal mission to go faster than Valentino Rossi on the Honda RCV211V MotoGP bike. That lap, set on a Dunlop-shod Ducati superbike, was truly memorable and summed Hizzy up perfectly – the fastest man in the world… on his day.

I was also there when he had the massive crash at the 2000 World Superbike round at Brands Hatch, and when he lost the 2001 title at Rockingham, running into the back of John Reynolds and breaking his ankle and collarbone. The 2002 title was memorable and a lasting memorial to a great family man, who was tragically killed in a helicopter crash less than a year after this interview.

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