Knaresborough speedster Joe Akroyd continued his remarkable progress since cheating death in a high-speed crash, returning to the Isle of Man to impress in the Southern 100.
Just two years on from the 120-mph collision that almost cost him his life at the Isle of Man TT, the former King James’ School pupil entered the same event once again, holding his own against some of the very best in the world on his way to an 18th-placed finish in the Senior race.
And Akroyd, a privateer, was at it again at the weekend, racing to sixth and seventh-placed finishes in the Southern 100’s super bike and super sport categories.
“I’m over the moon,” he reflected.
“I’ve not been around the circuit before on a big bike, and the last time I did was four years ago, so to finish sixth and seventh is really pleasing.
“When you look at the lads I was running with, guys with big support and teams behind them, I wasn’t expecting to be able to compete.
“Michael Sweeney is one of the top Irish road racers, Sam West is a top-10 TT racer, so to be in and around these lads is a good benchmark of how far I’ve come. I definitely feel like I’m progressing.”
Having enjoyed such a stellar 2019 despite his enforced break from racing due to his crash in 2017, Akroyd can’t help but wonder where he might be now had he not been sidelined with a broken back.
“It frustrates me that I’ve had to sit out for a year and I do wonder where I’d be if I hadn’t missed a season,” he added.
“I try not to think about the ifs and buts, but I have lost a full year out of my career.
“That said, I sometimes have to remind myself that I’m doing alright, things could and should have ended very differently for me [after his near death crash]. I feel very lucky that I’m still here and to be getting the results that I am.
“I’ve done better than I expected in 2019 , I’m exceeding my own expectations and now it’s about trying to make the next step.”
The next immediate step for Akroyd will be racing at the Barry Sheene Classic at Scarborough’s Oliver’s Mount later this month, though long-term he still harbours hopes of landing himself a fully-professional deal.
“My performance at the Southern 100 earned me entry to Oliver’s Mount, which I’m looking forward to, it’s a circuit I haven’t raced before,” he said.
“After that I’ll probably only compete at the Classic TT in August then that’s likely my season done.
“I want to try and do well at these two events and set myself in good stead for next year. Hopefully, if I have a good 2020 and keep progressing then it will give me the platform to go on and get paid to race bikes.
“Going professional is the ultimate aim. It’s something that I’ve wanted all my life since I was a little kid and nothing has changed.”