On any ordinary weekday, thirty five year old, Runcorn based Ian Mackman is the mild-mannered, unassuming proprietor of 2 Machs Motorcycles, Northwich. Come racing season however and Ian becomes ‘Mackers’ – the super-fast, super-smooth and super-focussed bike racer. Although the transformation doesn’t require a bat signal, or whipping into a phone box for a quick change, it is undeniable that once on a motorbike Ian has a natural talent and instinctive affinity with his machines that has led to numerous championship titles, both on short circuits and the roads.
Ian competed in trials from the age of nine, and once he began riding road bikes at the age of seventeen the lure of racing became too strong to ignore. He bought a Yamaha RD350LC, converting it for racing himself, and spent two years running in British Motorcycle Racing Club events, with a 2nd place in the New Era 350LC championship in his first racing season in 1998. Ian progressed to the ultra competitive Aprilia RS250 Challenge in 2000 and says it was an invaluable experience, with his first year on the 250 teaching him a lot about corner speed and fine tuning of the bike. Building on a solid debut season in the championship, he finished in overall 6th place the following year and took 3rd in 2002.
A move to four strokes followed, with an overall 7th place in the MRO Supersport 400 championship in 2003. Having being self funded for his racing career, Ian secured some significant sponsorship for 2004 and he was able to take the 400 title with a thrilling final race of the season at Brands Hatch, breaking the Indy lap record in the process – one of a number of lap records that fell to Mackers that year.
Now with several years experience and evidently the speed to match, Ian moved up to the National Superstock Cup on his own Suzuki 1000 machinery. Despite not having raced big four strokes before, Ian achieved regular top ten finishes, being named ‘Rider of the Meeting’ at the Silverstone round for a battling performance that saw him take a personalbest 4th in the race from a grid position of 16th. Ian finished a very credible 6th in the overall standings and was delighted to have proved himself competitive in the class. This prompted a progression to the National Superstock Championship for 2006 but it was a year fraught with challenges, the high point being a win in the Powerbike class at the September Anglesey meeting.
In 2007, Ian decided to switch the focus of his season to the Isle of Man TT races, using short circuit events as preparation for this ultimate test of bike and rider. Although now with the emphasis on the roads, Ian remained a force to be reckoned with on the track. He achieved a personal best 2nd place and first ever BSB podium in the Superstock round at his local circuit, Oulton Park that year. Selected BSB Superstock rounds followed in the next three seasons as well as a successful year in club racing in 2008, with Ian taking the ACU Clubman’s Championship. More club race wins followed in 2009. 2008 and 2010 also saw victories in the Wirral 100 Club’s prestigious Anglesey Grand event.
It was the North Wales circuit that was the scene of the low point of Ian’s racing career in September 2009 at the Thundersport GB round. Unable to make qualifying on the Saturday, he started Sunday’s race at the back of the grid. An epic battle through the field took Ian to within sight of the leaders and it was then that he made a rare mistake, running onto the grass at 120mph and colliding with the Armco barrier. The subsequent injuries were life threatening, but with his characteristic resilience and determination Ian astounded doctors with the speed of his recovery and his motivation to be fully fit for the start of the following season.
The Isle of Man TT is Ian’s favourite event of the racing calendar and he says that nowhere else in the world provides the same thrills. In the Centenary year 2007, he made his debut on the 37 ¾ mile Mountain Course which is perfectly suited to his riding style. At the end of the two weeks Ian was 3rd fastest newcomer, earning himself two bronze replicas and a 27th place in the Senior TT. In 2008 and now very much at home on the Manx roads, Ian achieved16th and 17th places in the Superstock and Senior races respectively and posted his first 120mph + average lap speed. He also won the Joe Craig Trophy for best performance by a British rider on a British bike.
Ian’s outstanding successes on the Island didn’t go unnoticed and in 2009 he was offered the chance to ride for the experienced TT campaigners, PRF Racing. With team backing, Ian finished in the top sixteen in every race, with a 10th place finish in the Senior and fastest average lap speed in excess of 124mph. In 2010 despite starting the season with PRF, just three weeks before the event Ian found himself having to provide his own, untested machinery for that year’s TT. What could have been a disastrous two weeks was turned into another successful TT with Ian increasing his best average lap speed and solid finishes including 13th place in both the Superbike and Senior races. To prove that his skill on the roads isn’t just limited to the unique Mountain Course, Ian has also competed at the Northwest 200 in 2008 with top twenty finishes in the Supersport and Superstock races, as well as outings at Oliver’s Mount at Scarborough.
If previous years at the TT can be considered successful, the 2011 event can only be described as stellar for Mackers. Again providing his own Suzuki 1000 Superstock bike, and with the loan of a Triumph 675 and the support of generous sponsors, Ian had a far more stable preparation for the event. Immediately competitive in practice and with a 10th place in the Superbike race, followed by 9th place in the Supersport 1 race and 15th in the Superstock race on the Monday, winning the Privateer’s Championship looked a distinct possibility. Not even an engine blow out in the second Supersport race nor a five hour delay to the Senior race could deter Ian and he took the title of Privateer Champion with a 16 point winning margin and won the Joe Craig Trophy for the second time..
That wasn’t the end of Ian’s trophy haul for the year; after a season-long and hard fought campaign in the increasingly popular Thundersports GB series, he took the Superstock 1000 Championship and 3rd place in the overall GP1 class. As a final flourish to the season he also won the Anglesey Grand for a record equalling third time.
Prior to the 2012 season Ian switched to Kawasaki machinery, acquiring a ZX10 Superstock to compete in the GP1 class of the Thundersport GB series and at the TT under the Kemtile banner. A new sponsor, Team Hairy Snid, were responsible for providing a ZX6 for the TT. In mid April, Ian sensationally made headlines in the international motorcycling press, being announced as the rider who would pilot a prototype CRT specification Norton. CEO of Norton, Stuart Garner, described Mackers as the ideal candidate to both help develop the bike and get the best out of it on the Mountain Course.
TT 2012 was certainly a different experience for Ian – balancing his ‘factory rider’ role and its associated media and public appearance commitments with preparing his own Kawasakis. In his typical unflappable style Ian became the first rider for 20 years to qualify a factory built Norton machine and only running out of fuel on the ZX6 marred an otherwise successful practice week.
Race week started with solid 16th and 14th places in the Superbike and Superstock races respectively, however a loose footpeg on the ZX6 forced a lengthy unscheduled stop (and the loan of a set of Allen keys from a marshal!) and an eventual 47th place finish in the first Supersport race. In the second Supersport race, a failed pitlane speed limiter and lack of power caused further problems resulting in a nonetheless creditable 27th place and a bronze replica. Further practice laps on the Norton delighted the huge crowds at a very busy TT – its distinctive sound endearing the historic marque’s, and Mackers’, efforts to the fans.
Unfortunately, the Manx weather caused first a postponement, then cancellation of the Senior race, with the Clerk of the Course taking the difficult decision because of safety concerns. It was a huge disappointment to all involved in the Norton project, but a parade lap was a chance to thank the fans for all their support over the fortnight. Mackers was under instruction from the boss to ‘make some noise’ which he duly did – as well ruining the tyres!
While Ian’s success is due to a combination of impressive rider talent and mechanical sympathy, he is the first to give credit to the support around him. ‘Team Mackers’ is very much a family and friends affair with wife Jo, Mum in law Ann ever present at race meetings. The newest addition to the team, young son Ted, is already showing promise on his electric OSET that suggests the Mackman racing dynasty may have a fair few years to run yet! A number of loyal and enthusiastic sponsors have also been a key factor in Ian’s achievements and he says without them he literally wouldn’t be racing.
2013 sees Ian return to the Isle of Man with Norton, as part of a two man line up with Dan Hegarty. He is also campaigning his own Kawasaki ZX6 in the two Supersport TT races and at selected Thundersport GB rounds.
You can keep up to date with Mackers’ season on his blog, by following his twitter feed @IanMackman and joining his fan page on facebook. A range of merchandise, available from mugs4u.com and featuring a brand new logo is also a great way to show your support for Runcorn’s very own superhero racer.
© Jude Freckelton