There are many stories and some films about motorcycle racing, all of them glamorous and about winning world titles, trophies, and big money. But Deno Chapman had written a much different kind of story, one drawn from what he personally experienced, in his debut novel, The Racers.
Deno is a motorcycle racer who competed in several UK club championships, and the UK National GP250cc Championship between 2003-2009. Now living in Dubai, he continues his passion for racing by writing about it, which in truth, involves much less debt, and almost no visits to the ER.
“I saw everyday guys who put their lives on the line every weekend they raced,” says Deno. “These were working-class heroes who were paying for it themselves and risking it all just for the thrill of it, then going back to work on a Monday morning to put bread on the table. I wanted the world to see their story, their struggle. In my story there would be no big paydays or world champions; I wanted the world to read about butchers, bakers and engineers who do it just for the thrill, which is the real reason we race. This story was written about amateur racers, so that their story could be told.”
The Racers is a book that only one who has raced could write.
What is your book, The
Racers, about? It’s a humorous tale of two best friends, Paddy Doherty
and Mucka O’Neal, who have always loved motorbikes and watching racing, who
then decide to take the massive leap from spectators to competitors. The story
takes the reader deep behind the scenes into the world of the motorcycle racer,
the grease and the glamour, the crashes, and the parties. It’s an adventure the
lads embark on, green and naïve and they must quickly learn to choose their
friends wisely- racing is a dangerous and cut-throat business! The reader
follows their path from their first race throughout the season at each track
and round every apex of every corner. It’s about choosing the right way to
race, or the wrong way, it’s a lot about character.
What inspired you to pen a
book? There are many stories and some films about motorcycle
racing, all of them glamorous and about winning world titles, trophies, and big
money. I saw everyday guys who put their lives on the line every weekend they
raced. Working class heroes who were paying for it all themselves and risking
all just for the thrill of it, then going back to work on a Monday morning to
put bread on the table. I wanted the world to see their story, their struggle.
In my story there would be no big pay cheques or world champions, I wanted the
world to read about butchers, bakers and plumbers doing it all just for the
thrill of it, which is the real reason we race. This story was written about
amateur racers, so that their story would be out there.
You started motorcycle racing
20 years ago. did you ever think you would enter the British Grand Prix? Never! The Support race we entered at Donington Park in 2008 was to show
the Moto GP fans that two-stroke GP class motorcycles that were removed from
the world stage a few years before, were still a vibrant and active race scene
at National level. It was the biggest racing event of my life and was a total
disaster! I was on a borrowed machine that I had never ridden before and threw
it up the track at Starkey’s Bridge during practice. I walked away but the bike
was beyond repair in the short time we had, so I sat by eating humble pie
watching all my mates race in front of 92,000 people, I was gutted.
What is going through your mind
as you get on that bike to compete at a high level and breakneck speeds? It’s different for every rider, but anyone who says he isn’t nervous is
lying! Mostly your mind is spinning over a thousand different technical aspects
of the race, such as suspension settings, tire pressures, ignition timing etc.
Then there’s the weather conditions and how it may affect the bike’s
performance, or how you need to adapt your riding to deal with it. Then there’s
your own performance and that’s the biggest part. In bike racing the
performance on track is 80% rider and 20% machine. You need to get you race
face on and really get into the zone. If you’re a nice polite and easy-going
guy in real life, that changes the instant you climb on the bike because you
can’t give an inch, if you do, you’ll never win anything.
Your book is not just about the
thrill of racing, but about the colorful friends and enemies one makes on the
circuit. tell us about that. The story, as in
the plot is 100% fiction. However, every single character in the book is
someone I met in real life, or a combination of real people in a given
character. Life is so full of amazing people that in creating the characters in
this book, I didn’t need to embellish the truth a single bit, in fact, some
characters had to be toned down a little for general release! One of the few
key aims I had prior to starting was that I really wanted the characters to
create powerful images, because the real people inspiring them certainly did. I
hope I’ve achieved that.
You’ve won some trophies – and
earned some scars. how banged up have you gotten from racing? I averaged around 3 crashes a season which as a general indicator means
I wasn’t short of bravery, but I may have been shorter on talent! Every racer
picks up knocks along the way, there’s an old saying, if you aren’t crashing,
you aren’t trying hard enough and at all but the highest levels that’s true.
Collar bones, ankles and ribs are common injuries and I’ve done them all, but
easily my biggest crash was in Wales in 2007. I high sided the 250 and landed
very badly, cracking a rib, fracturing my left fibula and tibia, dislocating my
left foot and fracturing 1 vertebra. I spent over a week in A&E and some
months on crutches. It was there in hospital that I actually wrote the first
chapter of the book.
What do you want people to know
about the mindset and lifestyle of amateur racers? They are normal people, from all walks of normal life, but with
tremendous desire to compete and succeed. Racers give up many of the things
that others take for granted. They often go years without holidays, their wives
and partners support and follow them around the country, because if they didn’t
they plain wouldn’t see much of them. They have a different relationship with
money too. Instead of $300 being a nice gift for the wife, or a weekend at the
coast for the family, it simply becomes a new set of tires for the next race, everything
financial is measured in bike parts, fuel, or race entry fees. They’re
incredibly generous to the last and will often lend parts or expertise and
assistance to get one of their rivals back out racing after a crash. Race
people are the best.
You also served the British
Royal Air Force for a decade, maintaining Phantom and Tornado F-3 fighter
aircraft around the world. What was that like? It was an amazing experience and I truly believe I worked with the best
military aircraft engineers in the world there. Back then we were mostly a
peacetime air force with the occasional bit of action thrown in. But most of
the time it was endless training- working hard and playing even harder! I got
to see some unbelievable sights, travelled the world, and loved my job. In the
end I left as I was spending more and more time away from my wife and kids and
they were suffering, so the civil aviation career started there. For a young
man though, I’d say it was hard to beat.
Why do you say the world of
motorcycle racing is hedonistic? I’ve seen everyone
from 7-year-old boys to 60-year-old men race. Some turn up alone, one-man
bands, some with huge motorhomes filled with partners, kids, and grandparents.
Whether they were alone or supported by extended family, they all have one
thing in common. All the money, all the support, all the time and effort put
in, there is only one seat on that bike and that one person is getting all the
adrenaline, all the glory, all of the racing “experience.” Racing is ultimately
a selfish sport, where every effort involved benefits that one guy or girl turning
the throttle and it’s an incredible drug. If this isn’t the pursuit of pleasure
and self-gratification I don’t know what is!
For more information, please see: www.denochapmanbooks.com.
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