East Antrim has a history of producing great bike racers and 18-year-old Shane Henderson has joined the long list of local champions after he was crowned the Ulster Supermoto Clubman’s champion for 2012, writes Maurice Montgomery.
It must be in the genes, as racing runs in the family. His father Paul raced TZ Yamaha’s in the 1980s against other local riders and, in his own words, “had great fun”.
“I get great enjoyment now out of helping Shane and his brother Geoff (himself no mean Supermoto rider taking eighth in this year’s prestige class) in their Supermoto efforts. My son-in-law, Mark Todd, has also joined us on the Supermoto circuit,” said Paul.
Shane, from Larne, started his racing career a few years ago when he competed in junior quad bike racing, taking third in the championship. After a few seasons he followed his elder brother Geoff who was competing in the supermoto discipline. “I suppose I got the bug from watching him and took up Supermoto two seasons ago on a 250, finishing eighth overall,” Shane told the Times.
He had to start on a 250cc machine because of his age, only 16 at the time, but when he reached 17 he immediately moved onto a 450cc four-stroke Suzuki.
So, armed with the 450 for the start of the 2012 season he surprised everyone, including his dad. “He was fast from the off. In fact, his times in the final race of the year were as fast as the times of the prestige class riders getting third fastest overall of the day,” enthused his dad.
His brother Geoff added: “If he is this quick, he will be beating me which says it all. I will maybe have to retire!”
Shane is the quiet one of the family, letting his riding do all of the talking and in his very first race of the championship-winning season, he finished third overall.
However, his first win was not far away and at round two at Nutts Corner in May he took the overall victory after winning all three races. So, how did that feel?
“Brilliant,” he said. “The bike was excellent. The difference between the 250 I rode in 2011 and the new 450 was incredible. There was a lot more power and it handled like a dream. I couldn’t have been happier.”
Ironically, his first Supermoto victory was at the very meeting sponsored by his father. “At least the prize money stayed in the Henderson house,” laughed Paul.
From round two until the end of the six-round series, Shane never lost the lead in the championship. During the final round his rival, TJ Rice, also from Larne, pushed the teenager all the way to the finish. “TJ was my closest rival all season and we had some great battles but the one in the final race of the year was the closest,” said Shane.
He only had to finish in the top five to secure the title, but in a true champion’s style, he went out and took the crown by winning all three races of the final round of the season. It was a hectic scrap between the two in the final race but Shane was determined to go out and win in style and on the last lap took the lead and the title. “My dad was signalling me to slow down but I wanted to win so much. It was a great feeling lifting my first title and doing it by winning was brilliant,” he said.
Shane was in so much control of the series that he had a 96-point cushion over second place in the championship after the 18 races. So, can he carry this success into 2013?
“I hope so,” he said. “I will move into the prestige class and try to beat those boys. The bike is good enough so, hopefully, I can come up to their level and get a few good results early on in the season. I am not predicting anything but it will certainly be a great experience racing in the top class of Supermoto and we will see how well I have done come the end of next season. I had great support during 2012 from my family and Allen Interiors and I would like to take this opportunity to thank them all.”