John Burrows bursting with pride as young son Jack gears up for two-wheel debut
Former top road racer John Burrows cannot hide his pride as he candidly discusses his feelings of excitement and apprehension in equal abundance ahead of his 11-year-old son Jack’s motorcycle racing debut in 2021.
Burrows, now renowned for running one of Irish national road racing’s most successful teams, will be a fountain of invaluable knowledge to his young son, who will make the switch from four wheels to two as he competes in the thriving Irish Minibike Championship this year.
The Donaghey Primary School pupil already has a solid grounding in motorsport after four successful seasons in junior kart racing, with Jack winning the Ulster title twice during that time and clinching an Irish crown. He also won the Northern Ireland Grand Prix plate in a one-off event and has several Tullyallen Kart Club championships under his belt.
It was an immensely enjoyable and productive period in the young Dungannon boy’s life, but Jack has now turned his attention to motorcycles under the expert tutelage of his 49-year-old father John.
Following an offer to have a spin on pit bikes belonging to British Superbike stars Glenn and Andrew Irwin, young Jack was instantly smitten.
“We went karting over these past four years and we had a great time,” said Burrows.
“Jack made a lot of friends and really enjoyed it, and thankfully he was successful on four wheels.
“But I suppose my heart wasn’t in the kart paddock as much as it would be in a motorbike paddock, although that was something I never spoke to Jack about.
“I just think it was something that he always wanted to have a go at and then one day when we were with Glenn and Andrew Irwin, they had two pit bikes that they use for training and they offered Jack a spin on one,” he added.
“So off we went one day to Nutts Corner and the both of us had a spin around on these wee bikes and he really enjoyed it.
“I guess now it’s something that I’ve gotten myself into this year and I really hope I haven’t done the wrong thing, but I suppose this was something that was going to raise its head at some point.”
A new 140cc Bucci Moto minibike – capable of speeds between 65-75mph – was the Christmas present of an elated Jack’s dreams last December, although he only recently had the opportunity to ride the bike in anger due to Covid-19 restrictions in place since December 26.
Burrows added: “We’ve been out for a few runs now since Jack got his bike at Christmas and he has taken to it really well.
“I just want Jack to be Jack, and not have to live his life against the backdrop of myself having been a former road racer, or now as a road racing team owner – I don’t want him to feel any pressure. The main thing we want for Jack is for him to be able to be a wee boy and enjoy himself without any of that scrutiny.
“I just want Jack to be himself and he’s got to make his own way forward, so I’m very mindful of that. People will obviously be looking at him because of who he is, but you can’t expect great things from a kid just because he comes from a motorbike family: he’s got to be allowed the chance to enjoy himself without any unnecessary pressure.
“Of course, in Northern Ireland there are famous motorcycling families where sons have followed in their father’s footsteps with incredible success, like the Dunlops for example or the Irwins, but I was never a Joey Dunlop or an Alan Irwin – I was just an ordinary person who did a few road races.
“I certainly don’t want to encourage Jack in any way to do what I did and our target is to stay on short circuits.”
Burrows readily admits it was a big decision to allow his son to go racing on two wheels at such a young age, but says both he and his wife Rachel could never stand in the way of their children’s dreams.
“Myself and Rachel both agreed to let Jack do this and it can’t be a one-parent decision. Obviously Rachel is very proud of both Jack and our daughter Isla (8), who’s into horse riding, and although ultimately we could stop Jack from doing this, that’s not what we want – we wouldn’t stand in the way of what either Jack or Isla wanted to do.
“But I think at this stage grannies and granddads might be a bigger problem than mummies and daddies! We haven’t really sat down and spoke too much about Jack switching to bikes, so maybe they can read it in the News Letter and then I’ll stay out of the way for a day or two,” Burrows joked.
“My dad is a farming man and he gets the News Letter most days, so he’ll probably see this. They’re obviously very proud of both grandkids and of course they always have their best interests at heart.”
Although Burrows is loath to look too far ahead, he does offer some insight into a potential career path for Jack in the next few years, should that still be something his son wishes to pursue.
“It’s impossible to say how successful Jack could be at this stage and for now, my stance is that I’ll support him and encourage him without trying to pave any particular path for him,” he said.
“I suppose looking down the line, if Jack did want to continue within motorbikes, then perhaps something like the British Talent Cup might be a potential option in the future, but right now it’s all about having fun this year in the IMC.
“We’re in no rush and if I don’t feel Jack is ready to race come the first round, then we’ll keep doing more test days until he’s completely ready to go racing. In saying that, his first couple of runs on the bike have been fine and his karting experience has stood him in good stead in terms of his racing lines, so it’s given him a decent starting point.
“He has never rode a motorbike much before but he seems to be adapting well to using gears, and his connection between his hands, feet and mind has been good so far.
“I’m looking forward to Jack going racing this year but of course I’m nervous at the same time because you never want your kid to get hurt, but it’s a relatively safe sport now as far as the short circuit scene goes,” Burrows added.
“We won’t be going out to chase a championship title and we’ll only hit the track when Jack is ready – I don’t want him to think that he has to follow in my footsteps or any of the riders who have been in my team.
“He’s very young at just 11-years-old and for me standing watching him on a motorbike, you’re very proud to see that and it’s been a great achievement already whatever happens next.”
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