Around Derby there is a group of friends that train, push and piss-rip into each other. It is a gaggle with a difference. A posse that involves world champions, Grand Prix winners, prizefighters and renowned names of the motorcycle racing world. Overseen by established trainer and Circuit competitor Kirk Gibbons, two of the prominent figures are Tommy Searle and Moto2 title contender and former world supersport number one Sam Lowes. These guys have bonded through work and the rigours and demands of racing…which they largely seem to blow away through a relentless level of banter and ‘grounding’ of each other. Lowes has also rediscovered his love for the dirt…even if it gives the likes of Searle and company another excuse to increase the micky-taking. We decided to delve a bit deeper and see how top class athletes bounce off each other…

Tommy Searle is having a good giggle. I’ve just told him what soon-to-be 26 year old Sam Lowes, MotoGP-bound twin of WorldSBK racer Alex, said about his friends’ tendency to call him ‘The Russian’ on account of a close and fairly basic hair style. ‘He’s got a funny haircut so he does look like a Russian!’ Searle grins. ‘It is the worst haircut in the world but he doesn’t really care.’

‘I get rinsed for my style, my gear, everything…’ says irrepressible and lightning talker Lowes but you get the impression that the Isle of Man resident can also dish it back. ‘Both him and Al are funny and always making jokes,’ Searle explains. ‘When I first met them I thought ‘bloody hell, they are just full-on…’. And that was all the time. You’d be at the gym at 7am and they were already too much! They were going on about birds and this-and-that and you were like “it’s 7am lads…chill out a bit!’

You wouldn’t go as far to call it a ‘bromance’ but there is a curious dynamic between the Monster Energy Dixon Racing Team Kawasaki rider and Lowes who is pounding his way through an attention-catching Moto2 campaign. It comes from an amalgamation of remarkable motorcycle racing talent that gathered under the tutelage of Kirk Gibbons, Searle’s trainer for the better part of a decade.

Al and Sam used to live with [GP, WorldSBK and current BSB racer and son of racing legend Ron] Leon Haslam – in a caravan at his house – and used to come to the gym really early,’ says Searle who relocated to the midlands around the time of his Grand Prix emergence as a sixteen year old and in the middle of the last decade. ‘They were also working as electricians with their Dad. I didn’t know much about them before that. They were obviously young and still coming up but we met through the training.’

‘Leon is a good friend of ours and was racing for Airwaves Ducati when Ron came up to us in the paddock and said: “I’d like to help you out…” which was mint because I was only fifteen,’ Lowes explains. ‘We were only kids so we’d spend a lot of time at his house, train in the morning with Kirk and then go to work. As we got older we needed to get more ‘on it’ and ended up moving to Derby where you had people like a Boxer called Jack Perry, Tommy and Elliott Banks Browne and then Mel Pocock. It was mainly us, Leon and Tommy and it was f**king nice because we’re all different characters and Woffy [Tai Woffinden] is there now and he was like a little fat ball when he first turned up. He’s like me: quite loud in the group. We all have different sports but we still go at it together and there is camaraderie.”

The riders met and made friendships in the damp confines of a gym and along vaguely similar training programmes. The disciplines of road racing and motocross might differentiate vastly but the squashing together of competitiveness, brashness and determination made for an intense chemistry. Talk about pressure…although the rivalry is not as hot as you might think. ‘With Kirk it can be very intense, especially when you have all those boys in there,’ Searle says. ‘There wasn’t really any rivalry though. We’d want to beat each other in the gym but obviously what Sam is doing is totally different to me. We all want each other to do well so there is no rivalry in that sense. There is fun competition in wanting to beat each other’s time on the circuit and you’ll come back from being away at the races and find a new mark to beat. Sam does Moto2 and I do motocross so there is not much comparison.’

‘Generally it is a bit of everything, some days we’ll be running, cycling or doing circuits,” explains Lowes who recently moved to the Isle of Man and logistically is constantly on the move. “Never really any weights but if we do then Tommy does a bit more. We have this thing called the ‘motocross circuit’. It is not a session because it only takes half an hour but it is a mixture of a lot of things. A mile on an old, s**t exercise bike that is stuck in gear, then a stripped down step machine that leaves your legs like jelly. Then on the rower for a mile, a grapple machine, ab exercises and others – I think 8 with weights – and then finishing on the bench which leaves you f**ked. I’m quite good at it because I have short arms! So one rep is a bit less for me compared to Tommy! You do that more or less every week and on the clock and I was ‘the man’ this winter and I was happy with the best time; the winter before I was nowhere near. Seeing the boxers training twice a day is another side of it that’s good to know and keeps you down there and working hard.’

To read the rest of the article in the latest issue of OTOR then simply click HERE

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