Joe Akroyd impresses at Isle of Man TT on his return to course that nearly took his life
Two years on from his horrific crash at the Isle of Man TT, Knaresborough’s Joe Akroyd is celebrating a top 20 finish in one of motorsport’s biggest events.
The former King James’ School pupil was faced with the very real possibility that he might not walk again after breaking his back in three places as a result of a 120-mph collision.
Laid stricken in a hospital bed, Akroyd made a promise to himself that his motor racing career would not end there, and over the last 24 months, he has “re-built his back, re-built his body” and also re-built his life.
His road to recovery was a long and difficult one, full of “dark, dark times".
In addition to breaking his back, he suffered head injuries and dislocated a shoulder.
Once he was finally back on his feet he enlisted the help of a local personal trainer in a bid to get him into the kind of shape that would allow him to return to racing.
The battle didn't end there though and Akroyd admits that there were moments during his recuperation period when the situation he found himself in challenged him psychologically.
These were, however, moments that he managed to overcome and all of that hard work - the gruelling, early-morning beastings with his PT and endless hours working on his bikes in his garage - can now be said to have paid off.
Returning to the Isle of Man and the scene of the incident that almost cost him his life, the 30-year-old sped to an 18th-placed finish in the Senior race at this year’s TT.
“This time two years ago I didn’t know if I would ever walk again, so I didn’t really go with any expectations,” Akroyd said.
“The top 20 [of a field of 65] is pretty exclusive. It’s a really competitive environment and for me to be anywhere near that is pretty special.
“I couldn’t even put my own socks on for six months after my crash so I’ve had to work really hard for this moment.
"There have been some dark, dark times and it hasn't been easy, but I’m really happy that everything I’ve done has paid off.”
The Isle of Man TT is one of the most famous road motorcycle races anywhere in the world with competitors regularly reaching speeds in excess of 200mph on an incredibly challenging and unforgiving course where there is almost no margin for error.
Thus, what makes his success all the more remarkable is that Akroyd, a privateer up against a field laden with big-name motor racing teams, achieved a place in the top 20 without any significant practice time at the circuit.
“I had next to no practice time, which made things a bit more difficult,” he added.
“I managed to get five laps in, in total. You really want to be doing five laps every day in the build-up to something like this but it wasn’t possible for me.
“I’m obviously happy with how I did, my fastest lap was just shy of 125mph, however with better preparation I’m confident that I could have performed a lot better.
“That said, it is just me going up against a load of big teams with a much smaller budget, so to finish where I did is mega.”
Since racing began on the Isle of Man, there have been 259 recorded deaths of competitors who have braved its mountain course, with 151 taking place during the TT.
Though he admits to a “couple of sleepless nights” prior to his return to the island, Akroyd insists that he was not overly daunted by the prospect of re-visiting the scene of his high-speed crash .
“The previous two years had all been building towards me going back and it wasn’t really playing on my mind,” he continued.
“They should have been putting me in a box in 2017, but you can’t have any doubts. You have to believe in what you’re doing.
“I was a bit nervous six weeks before the TT, and there were a couple of sleepless nights, but the closer it got the more excited I became.
"My crash two years ago was a result of mechanical failure. This time I looked after all of my bikes myself so I knew that they were all 100 per cent and that was a big thing for me psychologically. I knew that they weren't going to fail me.
"The Isle of Man TT is a bike-breaker. Loads of guys don't even make it all the way around, so for me to finish and finish in the top 20, it's satisfying.
“Now it’s done, I’m just happy with how it all worked out in the end. I’m proud of what I’ve achieved.”