A CONTRACTOR WHO’S UP FOR A CHALLENGE: by Wendy Short

CONTRACTOR-CUM-RACE ace Nick Morgan got his first motorbike when he was eight years old.

He has been passionate about them ever since – off-road racing is his love – and he was the first Englishman ever to complete the gruelling Paris-Dakar rally in 1996.

 “I progressed from motorbike trials to moto-cross, and then to off-road circuit racing,” says Nick. “It was only when I finished college that I discovered Enduro racing.”

 Nick has since won his class in three British championship Enduro racing competitions on a Honda 80. Each championship lasts 12 days, and is spread over several weekends, taking in about 120-150 miles a day of off-road track. He has also won bronze medals in three International six-day Enduros.

PARIS -DAKAR

 The Paris-Dakar rally is the most challenging race he has ever taken part in. The 6000-mile race takes 19 days, finishing in Dakar, in the west African country of Senegal. As well as motorbikes, cars and trucks also compete, with about 500 vehicles in total travelling across all types of terrain – including jungle and desert – for up to 15 hours a day.

“The navigation is one of the most difficult elements,” he explains. “It”s like trying to read a book when you”re driving round the M25. I have a rolling map which fixes on to the front of the bike, and I also use a GPS system. Every wrong turn means losing time, and the pressure is on to get everything exactly right.”

The fact that the Paris-Dakar costs at least 20,000 to enter and offers no prize money does not put off a racing fanatic like Nick. He also shrugs off the numerous broken bones and other injuries he has suffered for his love of the sport.

“Off-road racing is addictive – it gives you an adrenalin rush that can’t be compared with anything else. I have tried circuit racing, but I don’t find enough of a challenge” 

Physical fitness is essential to compete in off-road bike racing at the highest level. While he is working, Nick often takes a break by running up and down the potato rows, as well as swimming and mountain biking on a regular basis.

Nick went to agricultural college and was a farm manager for a short time, before redundancy persuaded him to set up his own contracting business. Some 18 years later, he has contracts with a number of farms near his home in a picturesque village near Thirsk, North Yorks, specialising in potato desiccation.

Contractors are no different from farmers, and most need to specialise in order to survive, he points out. “When returns are high, farmers generally invest in machinery and do as much of the work as they can themselves. But as soon as prices come under pressure, contractors are usually brought in again. Machinery is very expensive, and farms have tended to specialise, with contractors following a similar pattern.

PASSION

 “I would find it boring to sit on a tractor for hours on end, but I can visit up to 10 farms a day sometimes, and that breaks up the time and makes it more interesting.”

Despite his commitment to his work and his determination to run his contracting business to the best of his ability, Nick admits that motorbike racing is his real passion.

“I really live for racing – in 2005 I will be competing in rallies in Spain and Morocco on a 450 KTM bike, as well as riding a 125 KTM in the British Enduro Championships.”