Almost four decades on from Parrish being thrust in to the limelight, the likes of Bradley Smith in MotoGP and Daniil Kvyat in Formula 1 will have recently experienced similar emotions racing alongside world champions such as Valentino Rossi and Sebastian Vettel. However, Parrish’s jovial spirit is momentarily dampened when asked about the obstacles facing other young racers who have the potential to break into motorsport. “Unfortunately, motorsport now fits very much into the category of you have to come from a privileged family. It’s expensive and so very few of the kids from a council house are going to come into motorsport.
It’s sad.” This is not to say that all of today’s young talents are from such backgrounds, and Parrish points out Scott Redding, who rides for GO&FUN Honda Gresini in MotoGP. “Scott has been one of the few, but generally it’s kids from privileged families that go into motor racing nowadays,” Parrish reiterates, “and I’m really not sure how you can get more people doing it.” Beyond motorcycle racing, Parrish does actually have great experience competing on four wheels, and not just from his Guinness World Record-breaking feat of recording the “Fastest Speed Achieved in Reverse” in a specially adapted Caterham, nor his spell racing in the Vauxhall Caterham Series.
In fact, after retiring from motorcycle racing in 1 986, Parrish forged a successful career as a truck racer, winning the 1987 British Open Truck Racing Championship and then winning both the British and European titles in 1990. He retained the British title for four years, and the European one for three, before regaining the European crown again in 1996.
“When truck racing turned up I had already done the odd celebrity car race in the ’70s and ’80s,” Parrish tells me. “I used to race against Barry (Sheene) and other bike racers, and generally I’d win the race.” With his close friend Sheene already signed up to race for DAF Trucks, Parrish put in a call to Mercedes Benz UK. “I said, ‘I’m faster than Barry Sheene, he’s driving for DAF, if you want me to drive your Mercedes I’ll have a go at it’. It was sort of serendipity, really. I just turned up and did it, and was successful at it.” So, just how difficult is the transition from a 160kg motorcycle to a five-tonne truck? “It wasn’t as serious because it wasn’t as dangerous,” Parrish reveals. “After racing motorcycles, when you know if you make a mistake you could easily die, racing a truck the penalty was far less . It seemed quite easy, actually. “You might be surprised, but the similarities of racing the two are quite close, because a motorcycle doesn’t want to go round corners, it wants to go in a straight line, so you have to coax it into corners, and a truck is very much the same.” With my time with Parrish edging to a close, I’m intrigued by his passion for cars, and can’t help but wonder which he prefers, two wheels or four?
His answer is certain: “Undoubtedly two”, largely because of the inherent risks involved and the guaranteed excitement in every race. “It’s interesting that here at the RAC Club and at the BDRC, all the car people love motorcycle racing,” he adds. “They are car people, but you can’t help but love motorcycle sport and the racing that’s going on.” I’m also keen to find out what he has planned for 2015, and whether a return toteam management could be tempting, especially considering the success he achieved with the UK Yamaha factory race team betwe