Following two years of cancellations due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Isle of Man TT is back for 2022 and promises to be bigger and better than ever before. As road racing fans rejoice in the return of the sport’s flagship event, the racers who have missed out on almost 36 months of competitive riding could be forgiven for feeling slightly nervous.
For reigning Senior TT winner, Dean Harrison, the pressure is on, however the characteristically laid-back Yorkshireman is certainly not letting it show. Having spent the pandemic years honing his already-ample talent in other racing disciplines, he’s relaxed and ready to tackle what the island throws at him in 2022.
Dean, let’s take you back to 2019 and your first-ever Senior TT win. How did it feel to be standing on that podium?
It was almost overwhelming to be honest. The thing is, it’s the biggest trophy you’ll ever win in road racing. I’d won other TT races before and to win in any class is such an achievement, it’s unbelievable, but to win the Senior was so special. With the TT being the biggest event of the season, to finish the week off like that feels like the weight of the world lifted off your shoulders.
The cancellation of the TT and other road races for the last two years has been fairly devastating for many, not least the riders. How has it affected you?
It’s been so surreal. The whole Covid thing has been surreal and you just find it hard to believe what’s happened. Doing the British Superbike Championship has filled a bit of the gap, so at least we’ve been riding some bikes, but it’s like there’s been a piece of the jigsaw missing. Hopefully we can finish the jigsaw off this year!
You did your first full season in BSB in 2021 – was that something you had always planned to do, or did it come about due to the lack of road racing events?
It only really came about because we didn’t have any road races on the calendar. The team boss suggested we do the BSB season just to keep us sharp. The bike and all the equipment we had from 2019 was just sat there, so we thought we might as well put it to good use. Most racers start in BSB and go to roads, but I’ve done it the other way around. BSB is so competitive and it’s a brilliant championship. I really enjoy doing it and I’m looking forward to doing more this year. Having said all that, my heart will always lie in road racing. That’s what I do. It’s what I grew up around and it’s what I know.
Do you think doing the BSB season will improve your road racing?
I do, yes. I think it’s helped me and the team. When you ride together and work together, you’re finding things out about the bike all the time. You’re riding all the time, so you’re bike fit and your head is in the game. I think that has a knock-on effect, big time. It will help us as we go back into the road racing season. I can’t wait to get back to it now. I’m just looking forward to getting the whole season going, to getting to the North West, to the TT, all of it. I’ve missed it a lot and I just want to get my teeth back into it now. A bit of normality.
As the defending Senior TT winner with a two-year gap, are you feeling the pressure more than you usually would?
Do you know what? I actually feel quite relaxed about it all. The only thing I feel a bit apprehensive about is what the track’s going to be like. It changes year-on-year and it’s been three years since we raced there. It might take a bit of time to get up to speed, it might not. I’ll just take it as it comes.
Are you doing anything different to prepare mentally or physically?
The only thing different is that I’m doing a lot more off-road riding that I’ve ever done before. I bought a Kawasaki KX250X so I’m doing a lot of Enduro riding now. I’ve dabbled in a bit of Enduro here and there, but never anything serious. When I found out that Kawasaki had the KS250X coming, I thought “I’ll have one!” It turned up and I was straight in at the deep end, but I’m excited to get to work with the bike and see what it can do. It has so much potential.
What are your plans for the bike?
I’m taking part in some rounds of the British Enduro Championship, then I’m hoping to finish the season off at the Sea to Sky race in Turkey. My plan is to race and develop the bike as the year goes on and really put a bit of effort into it. It’s a brand-new motorbike, I’ve never really ridden a four-stroke off-road bike and it’s totally different, so I thought I need a bit of time here. It’s not that I’m not taking it seriously, but I don’t have to take it too seriously so it’s a little bit more relaxed for me.
With road racing, BSB and Enduro, you won’t have much time for rest.
Well, yeah, I do like to keep busy!
Dean will be competing in the 2022 British Superbike Championship, the Isle of Man TT, North West 200 and Ulster Grand Prix with DAO Racing Kawasaki.