You probably already know the name Talan Skeels-Piggins. The paralysed motorcycle racer founded the Bike Experience charity to help other disabled riders get back on a bike, and has regularly been competing against, and beating, able-bodied riders on his SV650 in the competitive Minitwin series and a GSX-R750 in the Thunderbike class. He's also became the first disabled rider to finish on a National class podium on his GSX-R600 in the MRO 600 series, and is a former disabled world champion. In 2017 he is racing his GSX-R600 in a bid to regain his world title at the Le Mans Grand Prix, and will be featuring in a series of blog posts, right here.
"The past few months have been spent building up my confidence and feeling onboard my GSX-R600 race bike. Everything has been focused towards Saturday 20 May, when I will be lining up as part of a support race at the Le Mans MotoGP event, which is a truly incredible opportunity and experience.
"In the UK I compete against able-bodied racers, something I was determined to achieve when I set about becoming a motorcycle racer back in 2009 as a paralysed individual. In some other countries the disabled motorcycle racers compete in their own race, using a factor system or - ironically - a handicap system, to level out the different types of disability. Once a year there is a World Cup event, where riders from around the globe get together and battle for the 1000cc and 600cc title.
"In June 2015, at Vallelunga, I was crowned the 600cc champion for paralysed riders, and second overall for all disability. However, in April 2016 I had a huge crash at Craner Curves at Donington, and was unable to compete in that year's event. That year, Michael Reynolds, another British paralysed racer, went on to become the 600cc champion for paralysed riders.
"It was only by October that year that I was able to ride pain-free, so the re-build of confidence has taken time. Although I recently had another crash, again at Donington, so now the prep is the frantic to get the bike ready for me to travel to Le Mans in a week. Not ideal timing, but I’m glad it happened at Donington rather than Le Mans, as we do have time to get things sorted.
"I was fortunate to head over to Le Mans in March for two days on circuit. I have begun to learn my way around the track and I hope it helps me in the bid to become 2017 world champion, but whatever the result, I will give my best performance and enjoy riding at such an iconic track at such a big and prestigious event.
"We have one 25-minute practice session followed by one 25-minute qualifying session. Then it's an 8-lap race on Saturday after MotoGP qualifying. I’m hugely excited about the event and hope to do Great Britain proud. But the most important thing is that others see what is possible, and hopefully it will encourage them to try something they perceive to be impossible in their own circumstances; whether it is getting out of the house and down to the shops or getting on a bike and racing it.
"And of course, my thanks go out to all those who are supporting me in the venture, as without them this opportunity would not have been available to me.
"I'll keep you updated of progress throughout the event."
Photo credit: KentBadBoyz Photography