IT seems Douglas born motorcycle racer Derek Wilson (37) has been immersed in the sport since birth and with Vernon Mount scarcely a stone’s throw away, this spectrum of motorsport was a natural sporting progression.
From the outside motorcycle racing can be difficult to comprehend, mainly because it demands courage, bravery, precision and talent, all in copious amounts, but the likes of Derek Wilson views it as just something normal.
“My dad was quite prominent in the Irish Motocross circles in the 1970’s early 80’s.
"I used to go with him to watch him racing.
"Actually, I had a little bike that I used to drive around the paddock.
"In fact my mum, Judy, has a picture of me on that bike that appeared in the Cork Examiner in 1978, the words were about my dad as he was leading the championship at that time, unfortunately, he didn’t win it.”
Derek is well aware of the dangers of the sport.
“I can remember going to hospital in the ambulance with my dad after he was injured in a race.
"I’ve seen him crash, I have six brothers and sisters but at the races it was just the two of us, so I had to go with him, thank god the injuries were never serious.
“I remember one race in Clonmel when he landed so high off a jump that the bike actually split in two, we went to Portlaoise Hospital, thankfully he recovered from (back) injury.”
In his primary school days Derek raced in motocross although with little success, he also had a great incentive to complete his daily homework.
“Once I came home, I got my homework finished and then I would push the bike across the road to Slattery’s Garage and head to Vernon Mount where I would drive it around the place.
"That was my typical school day.”
Wilson was a quick learner and real competition began in the early 1990s as he recalls.
“In 1992, I went to Mondello on a road bike for the very first time and 12 months later I won the Race of the Year on a Suzuki RGV 250.”
As well as taking his first win, it was also a statement of intent on what at the time was the biggest race of the season winning the Alan O’Mahony Perpetual Trophy.
Even to this very day Wilson competes in motocross events.
“It’s just for fitness really.”
From short circuit racing it was on to road racing and while he participated in many of the local hillclimbs, his first real road race was in Skerries.
“It’s such a fantastic adrenalin-filled sport when you do the roads for a while and you come back to the circuits, you have to acclimatise.
"Road racing is exciting, for instance in Skerries there is a section of a road that you have to straight line with a ditch on your left and another on your right and when you come out of that there is a jump and if you are not in the right position for that jump, you are basically in the dyke.
"To get it right is a sense of achievement and excitement.”
As for having moments during road races, Wilson doesn’t need time to reflect.
“Oh yes, without a doubt. What I have learned is that the most important thing is not to react.
"Obviously, you are braking and you try to slow the bike down.
"There’s been times where I’ve had close shaves and afterwards I thought had I reacted it could have been a lot worse.
"There’s also a bit of luck involved. The first thing that comes into your mind after is your helmet as they are so expensive, you always try and keep your head up.”
Like any other racer, competing in the Isle of Man races is the ultimate even though his victory in the three-hour Endurance Race in Mondello in the early 1990’s remains very special and he’s also won the Anglesey Grand in Wales along with numerous wins in the Clonakilty Hillclimb.
Wilson spent many years spectating at the Isle of Man, but as a competitor on the Manx GP he saw the 37.8-mile course from a very different perspective, albeit with a little help from his friends.
“I was very lucky to have the likes of Derek Shiels (a Dubliner that has a great fondness for Cork and has a large fan base here) bring me over and along with others like Brian McCormack, they explained things to me as I was over-thinking and becoming confused.
"They advised me to just concentrate on the key points.
"While fitness is also key, what’s equally as important is your homework, you need to know where you are going as otherwise you lose your momentum.”
Wilson won the Newcomer’s Race in 2017, at one point he led by some 18 seconds but entering the pit for refuelling, a race official noticed the rear light wasn’t working.
His team that included Gary Keohane, Mark Gash and Shiels, sorted the problem but not before Wilson’s lead was erased following the addition of a 30 second penalty for breaking the pit lane speed limit, however, a splendid recovery saw him claim the chequered flag, second wasn’t in Wilson’s vocabulary, the homework paid dividends.
Wilson has his own favourites.
“Everybody knows I am a Derek Shiels fan, of course Joey Dunlop was a legend, a really nice bloke (once I was able to understand his accent) that loved his bikes and everybody involved in bikes.”
Wilson admits he would like to go rallying once his biking days are over, but that’s not anytime soon, he’s still doing his homework and setting his sights on a return to the Isle of Man for 2020.