WHEN Rhys Hardisty geared up to fulfil a lifelong dream and race in the legendary Manx Grand Prix last August, it was a particularly emotional and poignant occasion, as the young motorcyclist was racing on the same track which claimed the life of his father.
Although testing his mettle in the Newcomers B class and the super-twins race was a defining moment for the talented biker, it was also a bittersweet one, and the results proved something of a mixed bag for Rhys.
Not to be deterred, Rhys will once again return to the Isle of Man this month to chance his arm at the 2015 IMGold MGP.
And his consistent string of successes at race meetings earlier this year suggests that Hardisty is definitely one to watch.
Rhys’s victory at Tandragee 100, where he was also awarded Best Newcomer, was described as ‘dazzling’ by Road Racing News and at the Barry Sheen Festival Powered by Suzuki at Oliver’s Mount in June he recorded two wins in the Lightweight races in front of his delighted sponsors M&D Cycles.
This was followed by a highly successful outing at Aberdare in July, when Rhys won first place in the Welsh classic and third in the Golden Era races on his dad’s Ducati 250 1965 machine, and achieved overall second place in Junior 125-400 on his TZ250.
He also raced at the Cock of the North meeting in Scarborough where he achieved fourth place on his 650 and second on the TZ250 for formula 2.
2015 has been busy, but despite his recent success, it is the Isle of Man where Rhys really wants to shine.
“The Mountain Course has always been a special place for me,” he explained. “I started coming to watch the races as a baby and my childhood memories are of hanging around the paddock with my father, Joey and Robert Dunlop and other stars of the 1990s”.
Rhys’s father Charles Ian Hardisty was ‘best newcomer’ at the MGP in 1995 and was all set to complete his childhood dream of completing the TT before being killed during the 1998 TT Production Race.
Young Rhys – aged 10 at the time – was already proving a successful schoolboy trials rider but the death of his father put an end to this for a few years.
It wasn’t until he was 17, when Rhys, whose obsession with motorbikes had never gone away, began training as a mechanic with REPS motorcycles, bought a motocross bike, starting competing and got his road licence.
“I drove everyone mad with my passion for the Isle of Man, and my plans to one day race in the TT,” revealed Rhys.
“So I dug my Dad’s old 250 Ducati out of the garage, put it back together and entered my first circuit race in 2009. When I came ninth, it’s safe to say I was hooked!”
Gradually Rhys worked his way up the field and in 2012 he was placed third in 250 Cup Championships having finished every race without incident. But circuit racing isn’t the same as the mountain course, and in 2014 Rhys was finally able to apply for his mountain licence – and headed off to the IMGold MGP.
“I’ve got my Dad to thank for my love of racing, particularly on the mountain course.
“I qualified second fastest in the Newcomers on my ERR650 and then on my 1992 Yamaha 250 qualified fourth fastest in the Supertwins, so it all looked good. But you can’t guarantee anything in road racing – a brand new piston failed during the newcomers’ race and, on the following day my 250 ran out of fuel just four miles before the end of the Supertwins. I was devastated.”
But 2015 looks much more promising for the young rider.
“I have been loaned a Yamaha R6 for the Manx, and I wouldn’t be able to do any of this without the help of family and friends, particularly my Onchan ‘family’ Cath, Bob, Chris and Craig, and amazing support and advice from my boss at REPS Motorcycles.”
It probably helps that his boss is Royston Edwards, a successful road racer himself who was chief of bike development for Norton and worked for Phillip McCallen, but Rhys’s own determination is crystal clear.
“Last year was like winning the lottery and losing the ticket,” revealed Rhys. “I’ll never race in the newcomers again, but I am so excited to be back in 2015 for both the Junior and Senior races. The Isle of Man is my spiritual home, and as long as I’m on my bike and racing here I’ll be happy. But a good result will make me even happier – I really want to get my hands on a replica!”
Rhys will be competing in the IMGold MGP Junior and the Full Factory Winnerswear Senior races, the Supertwin, and the Classic TT Formula 2 with the support of Reps Motorcycles, Kaymac Marine Engineering, M and D Cycles, BR Special Tuning, Willson and Wilding, and the Steel Horse Cafe near Abergavenny.