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.
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. 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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