It was while lying in a ditch on the side of the Dundrod track during the 1998 Ulster Grand Prix that Alan Graham realised time needed to be called on his road racing career.
The Omagh man had just had a high speed off at ‘Joeys Windmills’, one he admits he was lucky to walk away from, but it was the thought of his then three and a half year old son Christopher and 18 month old daughter Claire that made him decide enough was enough – well for 14 years anyway!
‘98 was a year he won’t forget in a hurry, but mainly for all the wrong reasons. His season started with a three night stay in the Causeway Coast Hospital in Coleraine with concussion following an off at Aghadowey before an all too swift return to action at the North West 200, which almost ended badly too.
Graham then suffered another concussion during a short circuit meeting at Bishopscourt before calling time on his road racing career not long after following that incident at the Ulster GP.
“I came back for the North West that year and everything felt grand but the first lap of the race on my 600 Suzuki, I remember coming over the brow of the hill into the last corner at Juniper Hill and I clipped the kerb on the inside.
“It was at that point I realised I wasn’t fit enough to be doing this so I pulled in and that was the last time I ever rode the North West,” he explained.
“I spent three days in hospital over that Easter weekend. I can’t remember too much about it, and for long enough after it every time I bent down to pick something up I’d get a dizzy spell, but later on that year, at Bishopscourt, I had another high-side and hit the head again and then I came back for the Ulster Grand Prix and that’s what
finished my so-called road race career.
“I fell off at Joey’s Windmills and how I walked away from that is anyone’s guess!
“You’re coming in there at basically flat out in top, then back two gears to get around Joey’s WIndmills. I had been having issues with my suspension all weekend and we changed it on race day. The bike was feeling much better but I stuck with the same braking markers as the previous days but I was about 20 metres too late and I just couldn’t
get around the corner so I went through the hedge!
“As soon as I hit the brakes I knew I wasn’t making to corner and it wasn’t so much trying to pick a spot to go through the hedge, it was a case of good luck and I hit the grass the bike went over the top of me and the footrest took a chunk out of the helmet.
“The kids at that stage, Christopher was three and a half and Claire was about 18 months and I remember lying in the ditch thinking ‘this isn’t worth it’, so that was the end of the road racing!”
Well, it wasn’t quite the very end of his story on the roads. The conclusion came in 2012 when, with an itch to scratch, he returned to Dundrod for one last hurrah.
FULL STORY IN LAST THURSDAY’S ULSTER HERALD..