Hong Kong rider Cheung Wai-on laps up Isle of Man TT experience
Hong Kong's Cheung Wai-on ended his fairy-tale adventure at the Isle of Man TT over the weekend, amazed at the speed of his rivals and how tough it is compared with the Macau Grand Prix.
Cheung competed in the Royal London Superstock race, finishing way off the pace in 50th and last position astride his 1,000cc Aprilia RSV4, but better for the experience, which he said was "one he would never forget".
"The Isle of Man is definitely many times harder than the Macau Grand Prix. I never imagined the top competitors could go so fast around the circuit. It's unreal.
"I had to stay 100 per cent focused because the circuit is not only bumpy on several sections, but I also had to endure bad weather. It took a long time to reach full speeds. I tried to learn the circuit the best I could.
"It was a thrilling experience. I am honoured to have competed there. It's been a very special moment in my career," said the 32-year-old, who became the first Chinese racer at the event and was backed by British-based team Splitlath Redmond.
"I wouldn't have made it here without the backing of my team, and the support from my family and my wife, Vicky. My family worried about me from the very start. Fortunately, it went well, but it was tougher than I thought," he said.
Cheung said the death of Japanese rider Yoshinari Matsushita - the 21st rider to die at the notorious 60km circuit since 2000 - during a qualifying session on May 27 added to the pressure. Also last Friday, 10 spectators were admitted to hospital after Jonathan Howarth's bike careened into fans on the Bray Hill section of the course on the first lap of the senior TT race. Howarth sustained a minor fracture, organisers said.
"The death of the Japanese rider added to the pressure because I knew Vicky and my family were going to be even more worried for me," said Cheung, who will become a father for the first time in August.
Cheung said he had spent three months on the island to prepare for the race, but added: "Nothing could really prepare you for the Isle of Man. After a week of practice and qualifying, I took part in the Superstock race, which I felt was probably the most relaxing time I had there. I felt I found my rhythm. It's a bit frustrating racing there because it takes about 20 minutes to complete one lap of the circuit. If you made a small mistake and wanted to improve your time, you had to wait another 20 minutes before you can have another go. Watching the Isle of Man on video and actually competing in it are two completely different things. It's one tough race."
Cheung said he was unsure whether he would race at the Isle of Man next year, saying his family came first. "My baby is due in August. I will continue racing at the Macau Grand Prix [where he is Macau's most successful amateur rider]," he said.