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Motorsport feature: James is lapping up life in the fast lane
NEXT time you strap yourself in for a rollercoaster ride amid fleeting screams of terror, take a look around for TT star James Hillier.
While blood-curdling squeals are belted out by most at the top of the Big Dipper, the 28-year-old Ringwood rider will probably be at the back, twiddling his thumbs and dreaming of his next exhilarating duel with the roads.
But Hillier can be excused for not feeling the same sensation as the rest of us after riding his 650cc Kawasaki ER6 – built in the humble surroundings of a shop in Moordown – to victory in the Isle of Man Lightweight TT this year.
He accompanied that maiden triumph with another stellar performance in the Blue Riband senior event, clocking a top speed of 191mph on his way to the sixth-fastest average lap speed in history – 131.386mph.
And while Bournemouth Kawasaki’s adrenalin junkie still attends those precious family days out, he readily admits nothing could replace the rush of slaloming round tight roads with treachery awaiting anyone who suffers a single slip.
Following his first chequered flag in June’s TT showpiece, Hillier candidly told the Daily Echo: “As a family we go to fairgrounds and things but it doesn’t really do it for me because there’s no real risk there. It doesn’t get me buzzing and I suppose my career spoils those days out to a certain extent, but I’m sure I’d rather be riding my bikes round the Isle of Man than not.
“The speed is an addiction,” added Hillier. “The risk factor and living on the edge is an addiction and I live for that now. The TT is the highlight of my year.
“You’re always very close to killing yourself because if you crash in certain places, you’re not getting up and going home. It’s a very fine line but once you’re in the zone you shut that out.
“That’s what you’re dicing with but that’s what makes it all so appealing. It’s incredible.”
It all started when, as a starry-eyed schoolboy, Hillier witnessed the action first hand with his father.
“I was about 12 when my dad first took me,” he recalled. “It scared the life out of me but it also appealed to me. All the guys there were heroes and I wanted to be one of them. My dad had road bikes but my mum made him sell them before they got married.
“He stayed interested and did some work as a marshal and a mechanic on the Isle of Man, but he never got to race there so it was a dream for him to be in that winners’ enclosure and it was good to share that with him.
“Luckily, my partner has always been supportive – I couldn’t do it without her. She has put up with a lot, but once the season has ended we get a lot of good family time away from the motorbikes.
“I think she would rather me not do it but it is something I have always done and will continue to do because it has always been a massive part of my life.”
With one eye on next year’s North West 200 and Isle of Man championships, it seems nothing is going to stop Hillier jumping on his spine-tingling ride once more.
Scream if you want to go faster… Anyone?
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